Adjusting the adjustment, mentally

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti 

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to admit something to my readers.  Mine is the face of mental imbalance.  I won’t deep dive into my issues – they are my own for the moment – but I would like to explain how everyday things we accept create some of these problems in those we love.

Recently I made a difficult choice about my life and some relationships.  One of the hardest things about letting go, at least to me, is the ability to not compare my life to those I’m letting go of.  A friend of mine recently told me it may have to do with childhood inadequacy, which is pretty close to accurate.  As a child growing up in northeast Pennsylvania in the 1980s, layoffs and income drops were not uncommon, nor were the rather cruel attitudes children had towards less fortunate peers.

In the TV series South Park, Eric Cartman relentlessly teases classmate and so-called friend Kenny for being poor and destitute.  Some folks laugh this off as schtick.  The problem is this minimizes the fact this behavior exists. I know, I lived it.

My parents went from living a relatively comfortable lifestyle to being on food stamps on a rather short time in the 1980s.  In northeast Pennsylvania, that sort of thing made you about a half step about dog poop on the social ladder.  You were avoided by many and kids who received free lunch were looked down on as social pariahs.  Don’t think for a moment that this teasing wasn’t part of behaviors and attitudes learned at home. The very first people children imitate are their parents and family, so it’s a safe bet the teasing I suffered was at least an indirect result of parental attitudes towards the poor.  To that end, there is an old axiom that some of the worst snobs are in the middle class.  This holds true anywhere. 

The crazy thing is now that I understand this, I forgive these folks for their teasing.  Deep down most of them didn’t understand the complexities of this condition.  Hell, nobody really did.  At that time childhood trauma was a lot like the flu:  everyone got it, so you dealt with it.  Some of us, however, didn’t deal so well, which brings me to another point.

It’s actually startling the way people classify someone as “well adjusted” these days.  Today that basically means you had a bunch of hookups in your twenties or early thirties to get the “wild oats” phase out of your system.  Of course for some this only exacerbates underlying trauma with regards to emotions such as abandonment, attachment, etc.  it’s literally like sticking a magnet to your moral compass – you can easily be led astray.  I know folks who say that I have a poor moral compass and while that may be true, knowing the root cause of that issue will help to create a plan of action to return me to man I used to be.  My issues are my own, and only a select few will know the whole details.  That being said I am focused and determined to overcome my issues through treatment and all available means for emotional balance at my disposal.  I urge anyone you know going through similar to do the same.

Let’s adjust ourselves to the ideal of the world can be, rather than accept it as it is.

A special request of my readers for Americus, Georgia

I rarely ever make a personal appeal of this nature to my readers, but tonight I’m doing so.  My college town, Americus, Georgia, is dealing with a rash of violent crime and economic problems like it’s never seen.  Many of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, and it is ranked as one of the worst cities in Georgia for violent crime.  This is a beautiful city which deserves better, and should have a much better future.

For that reason I am asking my readers to please keep Americus in your thoughts and prayers.  Those of you who pray, please ask for its leaders and citizens to find peace and comfort, and to be granted the wisdom and courage needed to weather this civic hurricane.  I ask that we all hope for this city to heal the wounds within itself, and that brighter days lay ahead.

While I poke fun at the political happenings there, Americus will always hold a special place in my heart.  I truly love the city and its citizens and that is why I am making this appeal.  To those I care for, friends and those I consider family, please know you’re in the prayers and thoughts of many today.  A brighter day will hopefully shine down upon this beautiful, historic town and that I will once again shine as a jewel in Georgia’s crown.

Superheroes so lame, you…oh, nevermind just read it.

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The Practice Squad is so lame, even THESE guys would rather be free agents.

The recent success of Captain America: Civil War had got me to thinking (Homeland Security has been advised of this, by the way) about some everyday “superhero” type characters nobody would bother to create.  Granted, this sort of idea was attempted with the ill-fated 1990s movie adaptation of the comic book “Mystery Men,” in which the awesome William H. Macy, as The Shoveler, was simply awesome.  Also, Ben Stiller played a really pissed off dude, but that’s besides point.  Before the post devolves into a complete Sumter County vs. Walker County shootout over whose Board of County Commissioners are the bigger crooks (you think I’d miss that dig?), let’s jump headlong into the world of comic book superheroes who aren’t even really “the other guys,” but the “other other other other guys,” the Rand Pauls and Liz Warrens of the superhero world, if you get my drift.  So, in that spirit, let’s call them the “Practice Squad.”

Passive-Aggressive Man:  His powers come from common element Assholium which, in high concentrations, alters the state of ordinary people into becoming really annoying ordinary people with major league anger issues.  Those powers include the ability to engage in monologues in which he plans to destroy his enemies, but really doesn’t want to because he cares too much, and the rare superpower of being able to walk away angry and grumbling and not caring, only to come back and attack with everything he’s got.  What really pisses him off is the fact his name actually acronyms to “PAM,” and he happens to have a sidekick named Jim, which of course results in his archenemies cracking myriad “Office” jokes at his expense.  His weakness is being anywhere near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Miss Anti-Relationship:  Her powers are derived from the elements Bichslapium and Assholium both being present in her blood which, when combined in the heat of battle, alters her personality such that she begins to scream and rant and rave and pull hair and scratch and claw, and that’s not even in the playful, wild romp in the bedroom sort of way.  No, Miss Anti-Relationship’s superhero mission is to save all women from the destructive power of male dominance in a relationship.  Oddly enough, she has designs on Passive-Aggressive Man, who really doesn’t want a relationship with her but still is affectionate and caring because, seriously, who the hell else is gonna do it?  Her weakness is Chris Hemsworth.  That’s it.

Whogivesafuq:  This hero’s superpower is actually rare – he has the ability to simply not care about anything at will.  A speeding train carrying the entire population of, say, Lafayette, Georgia could fall off a cliff into a ball of fire and he would look down, shrug his shoulders, and simply say “oh well.”  This superpower is derived from the element Dooshbagium, which occurs in small quantities but, when introduced to neurotransmitters, has the ability to cause a complete shutdown.  Most humans actually go into fatal emotional paralysis from this, but Whogivesafuq, thanks to his highly evolved sense of nihilism, could give a crap less about that too.  He can usually be found skulking around bars and taverns, trying to act interested when he really isn’t.  His lone weakness is when he gets interested in something, his powers of indifference evaporate instantly.

The Swinger:  Do not confuse this superhero with “Swinger,” whose sole superpower is getting a piece of action whenever he wants.  The Swinger (he’s very sensitive about this) holds the superpower of being able to hit a softball on target at will, smacking dogs, cats, children, windows, security systems, even nuclear warhead activation suitcases.  He’s just that good!  His superpowers come from the rare element homerunium, which instills a highly competitive spirits and an unrelenting desire to relive his glory days playing intramural softball in college.  He reserves his powers to fighting crimes such as bad calls in baseball games, where he uses his ability to knock out the umps with a single ball to the head.  His main weakness is the fact he can’t stand a blown call.

Bustierra:  This superheroine almost always works in tandem with other superheroes because of her power of distraction.  Her base element is actually common:  silicone (rim shot).  She also possessed the highly rare element slutygen, which endows her with the ability to woo both male and female enemies with her “weapons,” if you get our drift.  Her powers of distraction work best with The Swinger, who uses his balls and bat (this particular character description is getting very Freudian now) to subdue adversaries.  Her lone weakness is homeopathic remedies.

And the final member of the Practice Squad:

Fangirl:  This superheroine generally tags along with Passive-Aggressive Man and “Jim” but can operate quite well on her own in the presence of celebrities.  Her superpower is fawning over villains and wildcards she admires to put them into a false sense of security, then knocking them down off the pedestal she placed them upon with wreckless abandon.  The element she derives her powers from, crazium, is common in most people but Fangirl has managed to synthesize high quantities within her blood because of her propensity to down energy drinks in rapid succession.  Her lone weakness is Mark Hamill voicing any incarnation of the Joker.  Her archenemy is any Harley Quinn fan.

With their powers combined, they create the most dangerous weapon ever devised by a group of people who really have too much time on their hands:  the Death Meme!  So there you have it, the Practice Squad is coming to a city, suburb, unincorporated area, or Sheriff’s race near you.  Check your local polls for times, channels, and latest rumor.

Election 2016: Crazy is coming. Wait, it’s already here?

The Presidential election nominees are appearing to be clearer and clearer by the day, with Bernie Sanders (#FeeltheBernanywayyoucan) and Hillary Clinton (#HillBilly2016) down to the wire on the Democratic side, and Donald Trump (#FUImTrump) appearing to have locked down the Republican Party nomination by virtue of having turned everyone human being on earth, including Ted Cruz, against Ted Cruz.  Outsider John Kasich also conceded, the result of a bizarre particle acceleration phenomenon where Kasich finally, after three weeks of being mathematically eliminated realized (spoiler alert) he was mathematically eliminated.  These events, however, pale in comparison to one of the most hotly contested races in all of America.

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They actually ALL look like they just ate at Krystal to be honest.

I am referring, of course, to the showdown in my college town of Americus, Georgia, where the Sumter County Sheriff’s Election is in its finally, bloody, one-tin-soldier-rides-away week of campaigning.  The judgment day cometh, and it appears that nothing sort of a “May Surprise,” such as a giant space dragon eating the sun or some really lousy Dining Hall food at Georgia Southwestern State University, will make the outcome predictable.

The reason this particular election is considered crucial to this neck of the Peach State is that Americus holds the dubious distinction of having the one of the highest rates of violent crime among small towns in not just Georgia, but America in general.  Fingers have been pointing everywhere, from the Sheriff’s Office, to the City Police, to the City Council, to the Board of County Commissioners, to Professor X’s Office, and even the local Krystal until everyone realized the only crime that joint was guilty of was putting a trillion tons of onions on all its burgers – which could be Homeland Security threat when you consider the chemical output.   Still, the crime wave which has gripped this college town (yes, I said it, it’s a – GASP, don’t tell the County Commission – college town) has residents wondering if Americus can save itself.

The better question appears to be, can voters stop arguing with each other over who is the better candidate for Sheriff long enough to actually vote?  Practically speaking, Pete Smith and Philip Daniel are both professionals.  Smith, the incumbent, has been portrayed by his supporters as kind, compassionate, no-nonsense and willing to get the job done but needing to stop being stonewalled and sandbagged by longtime power brokers.  His opponents argue he is nepotistic, crooked and about a half quart low, and that doesn’t count the cruisers some say are out of date.  Daniel, by comparison, is portrayed by his supporters as a breath of fresh air, tough on crime, objective, energetic, and new blood.  His opponents paint him as a patsy for power brokers in town, completely unsuitable for the job, and loose cannon.  The wild part:  they are both, in theory, Republicans.  Somehow I think the Democratic Party took one look at this race, stepped back slowly, and said to themselves “oh hell no!

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Thor for Sheriff. No?  President maybe?  Come on, could do worse!

Naturally, one would want to compare this election to other elections around the state or country, but can you really compare this one?  It stands on its merits in so many good ways, and just about all the wrong ways.  Worse still, reliable sources (some, miraculously, still relatively sane after this election cycle) state this particular election has split the city in half, with the fault lines fracturing friendships, families and even the occasional custody battle over pets.  Wait a second, this does sound a lot like the Presidential election.  Forget this paragraph, seriously.

So that brings up a great idea – let’s say for a moment that the three presidential contenders were actually running for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office position and that Pete Smith and Philip Daniel didn’t even exist.  Here’s a breakdown of their likely campaign platform.

Bernie Sanders:  Legalize everything.  Make all services free, make college free, and tax the crap out of anyone buying pot or not getting government assistance.  By the way, don’t forget, feel the Bern!

Hillary Clinton:  She will provide solid leadership, strategic thinking, and truly visionary approaches to law enforcement.  Of course, that means she doesn’t have to be put under oath about anything happening in her life since 1992, and that especially includes that incident with throwing a lamp at her hubby after that tart Monica smoked a “cigar” in the Oval Office, if you get our drift.  Also, there’s this little pesky thing called Benghazi we’d like to forget.

Donald Trump:  He will make Americus Great Again!  How will he do this?  He will build a wall around all the bad parts of town, kick out anyone who causes trouble, and shout down anyone who disagrees with him.  He’ll also fire the County Commission, the entire Administration of Georgia Southwestern, and most of the State Government.  But he’s a great American, and will put his nose to the grindstone and help put Americus back on the map and make it great again.

Yes, folks, you have seen how much worse it can really get!  Commence heavy competitive drinking!

An educational “Hail Mary” pass

I sent this letter to Office of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal as a sort-of “Hail Mary” pass to see what my options are in light of my recent failed CLEP test attempt.  I am back to the drawing board and considering options, but at this moment in time, this seems to be as good an option as anything else out there.

Dear Governor Deal:

I am current a student at Georgia Southwestern State University, where I have been enrolled since September 1992.  In 1997 I left college for a variety of personal reasons, and made a life for myself without having graduated.  It was a hard road, full of debts which I struggle to repay, and working only jobs which I am considered qualified for since I lacked my Bachelor’s degree.  In 2011, I chose to return to my school to finish what I began in order to better my life.

When I began my road back, I learned that my Bachelors of Science Degree in History had been eliminated and that my only option was a Bachelors of Arts Degree in History.  This required an additional six hours of Spanish which has proven extremely difficult, both academically and financially, to complete.  I am at the point where all that remains to complete my degree is nine hours of foreign language.  I have attempted to secure these credit hours through the College Board’s College Level Equivalency Program (CLEP) Test, but twice failed to achieve the required score of 63 to secure the remaining nine hours needed to graduate.  I am currently living in Marietta, finding it difficult to secure a good paying job without my Bachelors, and all that is standing in the way of my degree is a foreign language requirement added while I was not enrolled and trying to survive

Adding insult to this injury is the fact that, when I relocated in 2013 from Florida to Georgia in order to qualify for in-state tuition, I later learned my university had begun offering in-state tuition rates to Florida residents.  I had spent nearly $50,000 on out-of-state tuition fees, over 20 years, with nothing to show for it because of a requirement added because my original degree choice was eliminated.  I am not asking for a handout, but rather a solution to this situation.  My advisor is currently exploring my options to finish my education without the language option, but she admitted it would likely require more classes.  I am now carrying a student loan debt load in excess of $100,000 because I have had to defer and forebear for years because my lack of a Bachelor’s limited my employment options.

I am unsure what your office is able to do vis-à-vis the Board of Regents and their requirements, but I do hope you consider my situation, as I have learned that many students across the state are now facing similar challenges.  As stated earlier, I do not wish for a handout, but some form of well-thought solution which takes into account those students who have worked long and hard but, through no fault of their own, find themselves, like I do, at the end of a hard road with nothing to show for it because of a requirement which was added on, to borrow a sports metaphor, late in the game.

I appreciate attention and thought you can give to this matter, and will be forever grateful to you if you are able to find a realistic solution which does not require additional expense or debt to be incurred on my part.  I wish to remain a Georgia resident who can contribute to this state’s growth and, as a writer, would like my experiences with my university days to continue to fuel great stories to help publicize Georgia’s college environment.  Thank you, in advance, for anything you can do.

Sincerely,

John Guzzardo

Love & Marriage:  the Finale strip and unpublished comics

Shown below are nearly a dozen never before seen comics of my one time running web series Love & Marriage.  I chose to end the series in 2010 when I ran out of ideas and it became apparent this feature was never going to truly get off the ground the way I had hoped.  I have over 200 first quality strips which have never been run.  I may post them here from time to time.  At the bottom is the end of the road for the features five year run.