My Pets Make Me A Better Human

When I was a child, we had family pets. We had a yellow-headed Amazonian parrot named Pepe. A German Shepard named Caesar and an old cat that took up at the house we named Mama Cat. At the age of 14, my mother passed away. My grown siblings got the animals, and I went to live with my father. There weren’t any animals at my father’s. It was all work and no play. That’s probably why he died when he was 42. So, from 14 to 35, I didn’t have any pets around. That’s kind of sad when you think about it. That all changed when I bought my house.

Molly the Cat

Back in 2012, I bought my house. At the time of purchase, I didn’t realize that a cat was coming with the house. When we went to move in, we found this little, maybe around 6th-month-old kitten, hanging around under the carport. She was very shy, and it took her a few days to warm up to us, but after a few days, she became a part of the family. My wife named her Molly. Molly has been hanging out under the carport ever since. We let her come in the house, but she’ll only hang out for a little bit, and then she’s at the door crying, wanting to go back out. Since she prefers the outside, we built her a cathouse on a table. It’s small enough for her to get in and stay warm on cool nights. The walls are insulated. On cold nights, like anything below 40, we make her come inside. She’ll protest for a bit, but then she’ll claim her spot at the foot of our bed.

Molly

Buddy the Dog

After we were here for a couple of years, when my son was about 12 or 13, he came to me wanting a dog. At first, I was like, “No!”, but my wife and him teamed up on me, so we got a dog. My son named him, Buddy. He’s a mixture of a feist and a springer spaniel. He’s a very smart dog and picks up on things quickly. He doesn’t like Canadian geese in the backyard, and his mortal enemy is a squirrel. Well, being that I was so adamantly against the dog, he and I wound up spending a lot of time bonding. That’s how it goes, you know, the father is solidly against the dog, but once the dog is there, he takes ownership of it. Buddy is my best friend after my wife. I look forward to coming home and walking through the gate to see him coming up the driveway to greet me.

Buddy
Buddy and Molly hanging out in the sun

Grace the Dog

My wife got Grace out of a terrible situation. She was chained up to a stake in the middle of someone’s yard and only had a plastic pet carrier as a house. Her owners were such terrible people that when my wife finally got them to give her to her, their only concern was keeping the chain. When we got her, she was severely malnourished, wormy, and unsocialized. We have taken up a lot of time with her getting her to be a good dog. And when I say we, I mean my wife, myself, and Buddy. She didn’t even know how to interact with other dogs. She had been chained up in that yard by herself since she was a puppy. She was a little over a year old when we got her. Buddy took up time with her. He showed her how to act and play. He showed her what to do with a ball. Now all she wants to do is catch the ball. I mean all she wants to do.

Grace

Floyd the Cat

I found Floyd in the middle of the street on my way home from work one day. She was a little kitten. She had just started walking and was maybe 6 weeks old. Cars were straddling her approaching the stoplight. I stopped in the middle of traffic, got out, and scooped her up. When I got her home, she was a dirty little cat. I washed her in the sink. I introduced her to Buddy and Grace. You could see the love in Grace’s eyes for her. She immediately took her in as her cat/puppy. Grace would put her in the crate with her and even let her nurse on her for a bit. Now Floyd is a little psycho and not a normal cat. She doesn’t like a lot of attention and will let you know it with a quick swat. The only thing she’ll let love on her and not react angrily to is Grace. If Floyd comes up and rubs on you, there is a bit of fear that comes with it, because you don’t know where this is going.

Floyd. Floyd’s a female cat, by the way
Mother and Daughter

Taking Care of Another Species

Nothing brings out your humanity more than taking care of another species. Having these pets makes me realize what I missed out on for the 20 years that I didn’t have one. I feel it makes me a better person having a bond with Buddy, Grace, Molly, and Floyd. To me, they are part of my family. They are my children that never grow up and leave the house. It makes me happy to be able to take care of them. And it makes me happy that they choose to be there for me without judgment or any of the other things that come with dealing with people.

The Fall of the Gasoline Commuter

Johnny L Brewer

I’ve had many discussions with friends, family, and fellow employees about the future of gasoline operated vehicles as of late. Many believe they aren’t going anywhere. I feel it’s way past time for society to make the transition to electric everyday commuter vehicles. The only reason these vehicles are still in mass production is the amount of lobbying the oil companies do to continue to make the profits they are making. Oil is a technology of the past. Continuing to pursue pathways in the oil industry is like using dial-up internet in a metropolitan area.

With advancements in technology, soon, the everyday gas-burning commuter vehicle will become obsolete. There will still be uses for gas-burning machinery in an industrial application. But this limited use will lessen the impact of greenhouse gases on our world. Think about the early days of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, when everybody was issued a…

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My First Round of Vaccination

I’ve written before about my experience with the COVID-19 virus. After having the virus, I decided not to be in a big rush to get the vaccine, being that I had already been exposed to the virus, and some people hadn’t been exposed and needed it before myself. I drive past one of those mass vaccination sites daily. It’s just up the road from my house. Sunday morning, I was in my local Wal-Mart, and they announced if anyone wanted the vaccine, they were giving them out free at the pharmacy, So I eased on over there and got my first round of the Moderna vaccine.


The Convenience of Getting Vaccinated
Giving it in Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, or any place like that is so much more convenient. I’m there, and a lot of the time, I wind up just mindlessly walking around and looking at stuff I’m not going to buy. Another thing is that it’s not quite as intimidating either as the mass vaccination site I ride by every day. Honestly, that place looks like something you’d see in a movie like Contagion with Matt Damon or Outbreak. The Dustin Hoffman movie back in the 90s where the little monkey brought Ebola to the U.S.

Nothing Spreads Like Fear. They got that right years ahead of time
Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com
I loved this movie as a kid


Vaccine Hesitancy
I live in deep-red Trump country. I mean deep-red, like the crimson fires of hell, deep-red Trump country. As you can imagine, there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy here. Many of my friends swear they will not get it. I told a couple of them yesterday that I got it, and they looked at me as if I had just said to them that I had just shot up a boatload of heroin. The FDA unapproved nature of the vaccine doesn’t bother me. I was in the Army in the late 90s when the government was shooting all the soldiers up with an unapproved anthrax vaccination that didn’t even keep you from getting anthrax. It just slowed the effects of it down so you could stay on the battlefield longer. My two friends were quick to spout off the lines they pick up on certain news shows they tend to watch that may try to discredit the science of it all. But to myself, I wonder this, while they spout them off as slight, faint, echoing voices in my head. Both believed the science when they hurt their backs. Both trusted the doctors who did their back surgeries. Both trusted the pain killers they took that their doctors prescribed to them, that every evening I see advertised while watching the evening news. Have you ever listened to the side effects they rattle off real fast at the end of those commercials? That’s just my observation of the whole thing.

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Photo by Danya Gutan on Pexels.com


Taking It for The Team
I don’t care who takes the vaccine or who doesn’t. That’s your choice. You get that because you live in this country. I feel I have to make sure other people can be safe around me. I’m wired that way. I joined the Army to do real Army shit, as I wrote in a previous piece. As a young kid, I thought that was to tear ass around and blow shit up. As an adult and no longer in the Army, I realize a soldier’s job is to serve and protect the Constitution of this country. The Constitution was written to protect the people. I’m wired to serve. That’s why I joined the Army. That’s why I take a vacation from work on election days and go work for my county’s election board and make sure that everybody who comes gets their chance to vote. And I guess that’s why I felt the need to get the COVID vaccination.

Storytelling: Appreciation of The Oral Transfer of History

As a child, I wasn’t much of a reader. My four other siblings were readers; I remember them being enveloped in books all the time. We had bookshelves full of books at the house. I just never had the patience to fall deep into a book. That’s why as an adult, I find it strange that I find solace in communicating through the written word. It’s therapeutic to me to get my thoughts out of my head. That way, I have room for more racing thoughts. What I do enjoy is a good story to be told to me. There is something about listening to someone else’s experience, being told to you, in their voice that brings me great comfort and joy.

Transfer of Oral History

Oral history is a technique for generating and preserving original, historically interesting information— primary source material—from personal recollections through planned recorded interviews. This method of interviewing is used to preserve the voices, memories, and perspectives of people in history. But before recording technology, these stories were passed down from generation to generation by community elders, parents, and people sharing their experiences with others. You see, a common practice early in our civilized world was to keep the masses uneducated, so the educated could tell them what to believe. Thus, many people were unable to read and write. Therefore, history was preserved by oral storytelling.

How I love To Be Told A Good Story

I used to love to hear the stories of my mother’s youth. She grew up in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC. Her best friend in high school was Cass Elliott of The Mamas and Papas. When I was real young, she’d show me pictures of them and let me listen to records. The first time I was properly freaked out by watching The Exorcist, she told me she used to walk that stone staircase Father Karras threw himself down on an almost daily basis. I was told stories of how she attended Martin Luther King Jr’s famous I Have A Dream speech. Along with many other impressive stories of her youth in the city, I think she realized early on that I was more into hearing a story than I was reading one.

Street corner at Georgetown, DC, USA. image taken from google images

A drawing of this street corner was framed and hung over the fire place mantle in the living room of my childhood home in Georgia. My mother’s way of remembering home.

The Exorcist stairway. Don’t it still look creepy? image taken from google images

Others’ Experiences

As I grew into a young adult, I still appreciated the stories of other peoples’ experiences. When I was in the Army, my NCOs would tell me stories about their experiences in the first Gulf War, Somalia, and such. One older guy I met while deployed, a Marine, told me about being at the barracks bombing in Beirut. I was blown away by that story. That’s one of the first news stories I remember seeing on television as a child. Another person I met was part of the story of Blackhawk Down. His story blew me away also.

Marine Corps. Barracks Bombing, Beirut 1983 image from google images
The Battle of Mogadishu-Blackhawk helicopter wreckage image taken from google images

 I’ve enjoyed the stories of the guys I’ve played music with; I find it interesting the narratives of their stories in the context of the region of the country they come from. I’ve played with guys who come from the northeast region who have worked with a lot of the thrash and glam metal bands that came out in the 80s. A lot of the guys I’ve played with from the southeast region tell me of their experiences of working with REM, The B-52s, and Collective Soul. Then when you get to your older guys, they talk of experiences with The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Brown, and Little Richard.

Two of the most influential bands to me as a child

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 01: Photo of ANTHRAX; Joey Belladonna is in the middle (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
The Allman Brothers Band

Appreciation of A Good Story

I feel when someone tells you their story, they are trying to include you in their experience. To me, that’s an honor. Every story told to me, either by my mother or some dude I met filling in for a band in some venue in Palm Bay, Florida, has been a jewel. They are all valued possessions to me. If you never gave it much consideration, the next time someone tells you of an experience, dig deeper into it; imagine it from their perspective. Listen to the excitement or sorrow in their voice and feel their feelings. Just appreciate them for being human.

Urban Oil Drilling and Neighborhood Refineries

Johnny L Brewer

I live on the east coast of the United States in a rural area. In this area, mineral companies mine for kaolin, a white clay. These mines are located out in the woods, nowhere near a neighborhood. The other night I was browsing the internet and found a story on urban oil drilling rigs. I thought to myself, “That’s insane.” After a lot of investigating, I found this practice to be very prevalent in southern California. Los Angeles has the largest concentration of urban oilfields in the country. It’s not only drilled right in the middle of neighborhoods but also refined there as well. People can walk out of their house and look one way to see a drilling rig pumping crude oil out of the ground; then the other way to see the refinery that turns the crude oil into gasoline.

image taken from google images

Over…

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Master of Procrastination: I’m 43 and Haven’t Figured Out What I Want To Do When I Grow Up, Yet

Welcome to my World

This morning I came to the realization that I’m 43 and still haven’t figured out what I want to do when I grow up. I live a stable life. I’ve worked at the same job for 15 years. I’ve worked my way up from the bottom to management. I have property. If you were to examine my life, you’d say I’ve lived the American Dream. The thing is though, I have a job not a career. I took that job because I figured it would do until I figured out what I wanted to do, and I still haven’t figured out what I want to do. Am I the only person in this boat?

How I Got Here

This morning I was walking and was just analyzing life. After school I screwed around for a couple of years, then joined the Army. When I was at the recruiter, I told him, “I want to do some real Army shit, but I don’t want to be walking everywhere.” So, I signed up to be an armor crewman on an M1A1 Abrams tank. I did that for 10 years. It was a blast, but situations changed, and I had to come home, so I wound up getting out. I had the slightest idea at the time of what to do so I took a job working where I’m at now. Just to hold me over till I figured it out. I realized this morning that I have never figured it out.

So Where Do I Go from Here

So that leaves me wondering, where do I go from here. Lately I’ve found myself watching all those YouTube self-help gurus. I can’t— I’m not even going to talk about them. I will say this. I realized quickly that a lot of them are about the same age as my son. I guess I’m doing good admitting to all of you that I’ve gone this far in life and haven’t figured anything out. Acknowledging the problem is half the battle, right? Well maybe that will motivate me to make a move. We’ll see.

Taking Inventory

I guess I should start taking inventory of the things I’m drawn to. I’ve always loved music. I’m a more than decent drummer. I’ve played for 35 years consistently. The thing is with that, now I’ve developed arthritis and can’t throw it down like I used to. I like being creative. I like communicating in written word. We can see where that will lead, hmmm? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just figure it out later

May the 4th Be With You

My COVID Experience

I was watching the news this morning when a story aired talking about the COVID wave currently sweeping through India. Such a sad story and a terrible situation, so many people sick, so many people are dying. No words can comfort those people in their time of loss.

My COVID Experience

In September of 2020, my grandmother passed due to COVID. She was in her 90’s. She lived a long life and saw many things. On November 14th, 2020, I had just gotten home from a trip to the store. I was standing at my kitchen counter eating a cinnamon roll and drinking a cup of coffee. I noticed I had no sense of taste. I was alarmed. I then noticed; my sense of smell was gone. My nose was a little itchy and runny that day, but that was common. I have severe fall allergies. Anyway, I scheduled a COVID test for that afternoon and self-isolated.  A couple of days later, the test came back positive. I never ran a fever, but there were times I felt terrible. I would get tired, and there was no other choice but to take a nap. I’d nap for a couple of hours, then get up and feel fine. Then I’d feel bad and have to go nap again. That went on for five days or so. It was around the fifth day I felt it move into my chest and developed a cough. This was the worst cough I had ever had. It was a persistent cough that stayed with me well after being cleared of COVID. I kept that cough till the middle of January.

Coronavirus COVID-19 diagnostics. Doctor wearing full antiviral protective gear  making nasal swab test for patient. Flat vector illustration.

Post-COVID Experience

So, by the end of November, I had been cleared of COVID, but I still had these lingering effects going on. One was the cough that I was continually taking cough syrup for; the other was this rash that developed in the crooks on the back of my legs behind my knees. It was weird; the skin was raw. I stayed so tired until the middle of January. It was everything I could do to make it through the day without having to take a nap. Even now, after getting my sense of smell back, I’ll still be sitting there and smell this weird smell. It’s hard to explain. It’s like a detergent-flowery smell. I hope one day that will stop.

My COVID Opinion

My opinion on the COVID pandemic is that it’s no one’s fault. It’s just the course of nature. I don’t think it was developed in a lab. I don’t think the Chinese government is responsible for it. I think it’s more along the lines of the movie The Happening. The fault lays, in so many governments not acting on science quickly and exactly to maintain control over the spread of the virus. China, The United States, Brazil, and so many other countries were more worried about protecting their economies rather than performing the main function of government, assuring the safety of its people. That’s the cost of Greed, 3.17 million lives and rising. We, as a society, must do better. We must be better.

Where Do We Go from Here?

People of the world will take this happening and learn from it. It will cost politicians their jobs. Look at the election in the United States. Areas there voted blue that had been considered deep red for a long time. This was all due to the Trump Administration’s handling of COVID. This will happen in other democratic countries as well. We must believe in science. COVID is very contagious. I took all precautions. I wore masks and washed my hands regularly and still contracted it. The thing is, as humans, we’re resilient. We’re going to make it through it. And on the other side, we will be stronger. We will keep our lost loved ones with us in our hearts and share the memories of them with our friends and family. I feel we are in the waning days of this pandemic. Soon enough, it will be over. Until then, we all must maintain our vigilance and stay safe.

Florida Python Invasion

Johnny L Brewer

The Florida Everglades at sunset

In the nineteen eighties, the exotic pet trade was booming. One of the top-selling animals in the pet trade at the time was the Burmese python. People bought these animals to keep in their houses in small glass displays. Soon, these three-to-four-foot snakes were becoming nine to ten plus feet long. Unable to feed them, some pet owners in southern Florida released the animals into the Everglades, which was the perfect habitat for the snakes to thrive. With a population beginning to take hold in the Everglades by the late eighties and early nineties, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in the Miami area in nineteen ninety-two, damaging a python breeding facility and releasing more snakes into the swamp.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact population of pythons in the Everglades today. Scientists know that there is an established breeding population there that could number into the…

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Gen Xers: Leveling Up At 50

            I awoke this morning to start my daily routine. Before my daily study time began, I was scanning news feeds to see if anything happened during the night that may have been of any importance to me, and this article caught my eye. I smiled a bit as I read it. Last night, during the airing of the Oscars, AARP aired an advertisement geared at getting Gen Xers to enroll. I thought to myself, “I’m a Gen Xer. I’ll be 50 in six more years.” Six years will be here with a snap of the fingers when you think about it. My wife and I have been married for six years. It doesn’t seem like it. But as I’ve chewed on it all day before writing this piece, I don’t dread it. I kind of look at it as leveling up.

            That’s one of the characteristics of Gen Xers. We don’t see ourselves as growing old—maybe seasoned or wiser for our experiences, but not old. After all, think about it, we never got to see two of the biggest stars of the 90s grow old or even burn out, Kurt Cobain or Tupac Shakur, both died in their prime. We were kids raised by MTV. The real MTV, not 16 and pregnant MTV. Computers and the internet were in their infancy, and the sound of dial-up was exciting. Y2K was the dawning of our adulthood as we entered our 20’s and 30’s. And September the 11th was our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our call to fight.

I don’t know, but that guy on the left looks like the singer for the Foo Fighters, only younger
Tupac Shakur

            I find it crazy that I don’t see myself as old. When my Mom and Dad were my age, they looked old to me. I don’t see my peers as old either. I believe that is because Gen Xers have found that balance between work and life. Where our baby boomer parents threw themselves into work and never did anything else seemingly, my peers and I maintained a healthy lifestyle and stayed active well into our 30’s.

Leveling up at 50

            As I stair down 50, I look forward to that decade of my life. As a matter of fact, I’ve already started planning for it. We’ll see if these plans pan out, but if they don’t, I’ll still be good. My message to all Gen Xers is to look at turning 50 as leveling up. Look at it as going from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White. Xers don’t grow old because our Icons died young. We have too much life ahead of us to be worried about our age.