The book lists the peeves as they appeared each year over that twenty-year span. In addition, each year starts off with a creative nonfiction story that is primarily memoir, personal, meditative, or lyrical.
The peeves cover a lot of territory. They are provocative, stimulating, and full of spiritual, psychological, and political commentary using satire, humor, and often laced with a good bit of baloney. They are designed to encourage discussion and challenge the belief system most of us inherit from our parents. They are not meant to demean any person, although at times the author skirts right on the edge of making fun of a particular person. Sorry, but the whole purpose is to peeve you.
A lot of the peeves express feelings about things that many people have a hard time talking about. The author has no such problems. Straightforward, unapologetic, and with no remorse, the peeves drive home the other side of most stories. This is not a book for those favoring the status quo or for the faint of heart.
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The Art of the Peeve
By Bruce H. Weik
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Bruce H. Weik
All rights reserved.
THE BROKEN MIRROR
The mirror never lies. Not even a broken one relegated to the garage. The face is older. The hair thin and gray. The winkles deep and the aging spots darker. Those things really don't bother me. They are better than the alternative. I am glad to see that face staring back, however old he may look. He reminds me of things yet to come.
I come from a small, rural, German, community in Southern Illinois. My childhood and adolescent days were filled with school, sports, and working on local forms for spending money. My father was a plumber, making a good, middle-class living, and my mother was a housewife. I was an only child, which had its advantages and disadvantages. I didn't have to share my toys, and there was no sibling rivalry. But as time passed, I missed having brothers and sisters. Today, there is only me left from my family of origin. My father died when I was 18, two weeks before my high school graduation. My life after that was altered in ways I would have never thought likely. My mother died in 2002. She was soft-spoken, unassuming, and a steady presence in my life. I miss her.
I was the first in my extended family to graduate from college. The most significant thing I found about college was not the knowledge gained, but the exposure to different people and the diversity. My hometown was lily white. Naturally, in college I became a Midwest hippie, which was considerably different from a San Francisco hippie. A lot more subdued. Shorter hair. More baths. By my junior year in college, I was spending most of my time protesting the Vietnam War, and campaigning for Bobby Kennedy. Hard on the GPA, but no regrets. I would do the same today.
I graduated in the fall of 1970, and my wife and I were married on March 6, 1971. We were childhood sweethearts. I may have been a little sweeter on her than she on me, but she said yes. I got the better deal. We immediately moved to Bethany Theological Seminary, in Oak Brook, Illinois. This was partly (2%) because I wanted to be a minister and partly (98%) because I didn't want to be in the war. My wife worked as an ICU nurse at Hinsdale Hospital, and I was a student. Being so close to Chicago, protesting the war once again became my major. We moved back to our hometown in 1973. My time at Bethany was productive, but not grade-wise. One of my professors, Dr. Dale Brown, helped me to apply for conscientious objector status, which I was eventually granted by the local draft board.
I went to graduate school in 1979 and completed a master's degree in family therapy. My wife completed her training to become a nurse anesthetist. Two kids and seven dogs later, we retired to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The face in the mirror has had a good and lucky life. If given the chance, I'm not so naïve as to say I would never do anything over. There is plenty of room for improvement. But I'm basically happy with what I see, however blurry that face might appear between those cracks.
PEEVE NUMBER 1: We have a House full of Republican and Democratic congressmen who haven't experienced life beyond the boundaries of their country clubs.
PEEVE NUMBER 2: It strikes me as odd that death is not considered cruel and unusual punishment.
PEEVE NUMBER 3: It's funny how we believe a lack of money is the main reason that so many of our public institutions and programs fail. The federal government wants more and more tax dollars, generally not from the rich but from the poor and middle classes. State government, city government, school districts, more and more money to produce less and less results. In private business, you would end up bankrupt and looking for work. In the public domain, you just ask the taxpayer for more money. Isn't it great being a business partner with such incompetent boobs?
PEEVE NUMBER 4: If you work for a living and need some help from the government to get back on your feet after you lost your job, or have been injured, or were robbed by a bank baron, I wouldn't bend over in front of a right-wing Republican if I were you.
PEEVE NUMBER 5: I'll pay a dollar to the first person who can name the last governor of Illinois was who has not spent time in prison.
PEEVE NUMBER 6: How do you stop a stampeding elephant? How do you get a donkey off its ass? Today's great political questions.
PEEVE NUMBER 7: Anyone in public service who violates the public trust by stealing, or sexual misconduct, or faking a five-day work week, should have to forfeit their retirement. This would be called the rich man's "capital" punishment.
PEEVE NUMBER 8: In the 1994 election, five convicted felons ran for public office in Chicago. This reminds me of the old saying, "Which came first, the politician or the bad egg?" PEEVE NUMBER 9: When I die, I sure hope I go to Heaven. I figure Hell is a Republican National Convention.
PEEVE NUMBER 10: How many operations does it take to make a BMW?
PEEVE NUMBER 11: Justice for a long time has favored the rich, as do many of life's finer purchases.
PEEVE NUMBER 12: Have you ever noticed how there are some places where you just feel better, more relaxed, more serene? It might be in the mountains, at the beach, in your garden, in the woods. You somehow know this is a place that helps you, gives you strength, renews your spirit. If you find such a place, purchase it and sell it for a huge profit to some other fool who believes this crap.
PEEVE NUMBER 13: (A KKK rally had just taken place in a neighboring county). Halloween is just around the corner. Don't dress your kid in a white sheet this year, they may be recruited. Ghouls are in fashion.
PEEVE NUMBER 14: The New Year is upon us. Another election year. The promises have already started coming in. I'm going to ask Santa for a shovel. I have a feeling I'm going to need it.
PEEVE NUMBER 15: I like the recent Budweiser Lite commercial where the guy cries on his dads shoulder while trying to grab his dad's last beer. Then he proposes to a girl he has known for only two weeks, trying to get her last beer. It looks like this guy is an alcoholic willing to do just about anything to get a beer. Congratulations to Anheuser-Busch. This alcoholic's on you.[right arrow]
PEEVE NUMBER 16: I figure I should finish the year with a bang. So many peeving predicaments, it's hard to choose my most pressing peeve. Lately, it involves the lousy quality of underwear today. Underwear used to last forever, or until the dog ate the crotch out. Now, you wash the things three times and they disintegrate. I guess it's a sign of the times: It gets harder and harder to cover your ass.
PEEVE NUMBER 17: The city wants a special deal to get rid of its waste. I say we can't afford a special election.
PEEVE NUMBER 18: Did you ever notice the smile on the face of a short man dancing with a tall woman?
PEEVE NUMBER 19: I generally avoid discussions having to do with politics, religion, and same-sex marriages.
PEEVER NUMBER 20: I figure we could balance the budget by doing away with all defense expenditures. Who in the hell would want to take over this mess?CHAPTER 2
Year number one was fairly uneventful. Norm, the editor of The Zephyr, was relatively happy with the column, outside of the three threats to sue us. Norm didn't get too excited about such things. None of us had anything worth possessing, so the threat of a lawsuit was somewhat lame. Besides, I meticulously researched everything I wrote (or so I told Norm). I started off 1996 with "The Company Store," in honor of my grandfather.
THE COMPANY STORE
My middle name is Henry. That was my grandfather's name. He was a coal miner. As he described to me one summer afternoon, it was a hard life. We were sitting in his shed, a getaway from my grandmother. It was no more than 100 yards from the house, but a relief nonetheless. On one end was the outdoor john, a vital part of the homestead. In the middle, a coal bin, for fueling the cook stove, which was the only means of heat. And on the far end, his hideout. A 20x50-foot garden lay between the shed and the house, with a brick path running down the side. I remember irises lining both sides of the path. Mainly purple. Some yellow.
He read books in his hideout, mostly mysteries and cowboy stories. He rolled his own cigarettes with Bugler tobacco. He was always plotting out next year's garden. He saved bits and pieces of everything in old Bugler cans. "You never know when these things might come in handy," he would explain. The room was not what you would want to call neat. It had a dirt floor, an old kitchen table, a couple of broken-down chairs held together with rope, and some homemade shelving on the walls. There were plenty of spiders, cobwebs, mice, and cats lurking around. The room had an earthy sort of smell in the summer. Or maybe it was just a smell. At any rate, the room held a lot of mysteries for a 12-year-old.
He had all this time for me because he had been hurt in a mining accident. He broke his back, which he confided in me was probably not an accident. The Southern #9 Coal mine, located in New Baden, Illinois, opened in 1899 and eventually got to a depth of 320 feet. "Every time I went into that mine, I felt like I was being buried alive."
He was an early union organizer. There were deaths. He didn't elaborate. It sounded plenty scary to a 12-year-old. The company didn't want unions. He said they would hire detectives, Pinkerton employees, who he referred to as goons, to stir up trouble. Rough up some of the union leaders. His back was broken when a cart broke loose while hauling coal out of the mine. He was sure it was one of the goons, but the company claimed it was an accident. My grandfather was laid out on a piece of plywood for six months. There were no high-tech solutions to a broken back at that time. You lay down and waited for it to heal. The "accident" definitely took a toll on him. He only worked odd jobs after that. I never knew him to weigh much more than 100 pounds.
Partly because of my grandfather's story, and partly because my father was a union president, I have been a lifelong union sympathizer, although I have never belonged to a union. Given the opportunity, I have always sided with the worker. Our labor is all we have to sell. Getting a livable wage for your labor is, for me, a human right. The rich have never seen it that way. Cheap labor is necessary for capitalism to thrive. I don't buy it. So it ends up: like grandfather, like father, like son.
The miners would go underground before the sun was up and come out after sundown. He said this would go on for weeks at a time, until finally, all hell would break loose. "Everyone would then go on two- or three-day bender." He never mentioned any details, but it seems clear that he had done things during that time of being inebriated that he was not proud of. As a young boy, I didn't pay any attention to any moral implications. I was fascinated by the stories. My mother and grandmother never talked about this part my grandfather's past. I don't think they wanted to influence our relationship. Perhaps some of the memories hurt too much. Staying quiet about it was a German kind of thing. Anything stirring up emotions was not generally discussed.
They would drink at the company tavern, an extension of the company store. He said they would drink whatever, and the bartender would "tab it up." After a night of drinking, they had no idea how much they had consumed, or how much it cost. They got the tab at the end of the month. It all came out of their pay. Between the tavern, the actual company store where groceries and other items were purchased, and the rent for living in a company home, there wasn't much left. In fact, at times, they owed the company more than they were paid. As Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don't you call me, 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."
Thinking about this today reminds me that not much has changed over the years for the worker. Millions of people still work for minimum wage, and countless people work two or three jobs in a desperate attempt to keep up with the economy, which has little regard for the poor. The company store was today's corporation. As a 12-year-old boy, I didn't have any understanding of this. Today, it haunts me. I get in repeated arguments with my Republican friends about the rich wanting to get richer, and the poor getting poorer. I have spent much of my life trying to help people caught in the minimum wage exploitation of their labor. Without workers representing themselves together, the worker has little chance to make a decent living.
My grandfather died in 1967. My father had died a year earlier. Massive heart attack. Sometime after the funeral, my grandfather and I were sitting in the shed. He looked at me and said, "I wish it had been me who died rather than your father." Crap. I was 18 then, but not prepared for that. What kind of man would think about giving up his life in order for his grandson's father to live? Maybe the kind of man who had given up his life years ago to fight for decent wages and to free himself and his fellow workers from the stranglehold the company store had on them.
PEEVE NUMBER 21: Building a relationship is a lot like building a house. If you take shortcuts, you usually pay for it later.
PEEVE NUMBER 22: "The older you get, the wiser you get." That must be some kind of cruel joke. You can't remember what the hell you did an hour ago, but you're sure it was done right.
PEEVE NUMBER 23: Watching politicians campaign is a lot like sitting around a playground observing children playing. There's usually a lot of make-believe going on.
PEEVE NUMBER 24: I once had a dream in color. It was very unfortunate. Prior to that, everyone was getting along.
PEEVE NUMBER 25: I like it when it's 95 degrees out and you see these suits walking around with long-sleeved shirts. You've got to figure they're Mormons, bankers, or lawyers. The first wants to take you to the hereafter. The other two just want to take you.
PEEVE NUMBER 26: The Peever takes on Jack Kemp: He hurt his back and couldn't go into active service. They prescribed football for the next seven years to help it.
PEEVE NUMBER 27: The weather has been great. Reminds me of somewhere else.
PEEVE NUMBER 28: People moan and groan about the perceived unwillingness of those on welfare to work. Yet when I'm around any country club, which is not too often, the most esteemed and admired seem to be those who don't work. I'm sure there's an explanation, and I can imagine who paid for it.
PEEVE NUMBER 29: I keep coming up to streets that say, "No right turn."
PEEVE NUMBER 30: School is about to start. That's good. Helps keep the teachers off the street.
PEEVE NUMBER 31: People seem to be getting more and more paranoid. Fear paralyzes many a person. They won't travel; they won't go out for walks; they barbwire their yards; in some cases, they won't leave their homes. I suppose it boils down to not coming to grips with death, which would seem to be the worst outcome of any fear. Being paralyzed by fear results in nothing short of living death. I couldn't possibly think of anything worse. Death allows us to move on to whatever comes next. Living death keeps you from experiencing life, here, now.
PEEVE NUMBER 32: George Burns has died. It appears even God needs to come to terms with death.
PEEVE NUMBER 33: I've lived almost one-half of a century and I still haven't been to another planet. That's discounting Planet Hollywood and giving Chicago the benefit of the doubt.
PEEVE NUMBER 34: There comes a time in every man's life when he asks the question: Is this all the bigger I'm going to get?
PEEVE NUMBER 35: It doesn't hurt to want. The problem comes when you need to pay for it.
PEEVE NUMBER 36: Fewer and fewer people are getting sick. Seems they can't afford to.
PEEVE NUMBER 37: The things that make us happy are directions.CHAPTER 3
That finishes up two years of Peeves. I hope they've done you some good. It's good to have feelings. What would life be without feelings? Joy, sorrow, anger, laughter, hatred, happiness, love. God would have invented robots if she did not want us to feel these things. Life would be nothing but a constant state of nothingness. I poke fun at all of us, not to diminish anyone as a person, but to remind us all that we are human and, because of this affliction, screw up from time to time. Like my buddy Jake says, "If you can't take a joke, don't get off the pot."
10, 9, 8, 7, 6. ... Moonwalking toward a less advanced civilization. Rearward. In reverse. The opposite direction. Turned around. Upside down. The Dark Ages.
* * *
People carrying a gun on their hip. Holsters. Feeling safe. Secure. Confident. Don't mess around with me. The wild, wild, west. John Wayne. Roy Rogers. The Lone Ranger. Gunsmoke. Bonanza. Head 'em up, move 'em out. Bang! You're dead.
* * *
No more Muslims. Scary. Beards. Hijabs. Bombs. Virgins. Quran. Mohammad. No Gooks. No Krauts. No Slant Eyes. No Micks. No Polacks. No Jerrys. No Frogs. High fence. Concertina wire. Dogs. Mean dogs. No entrance. Not allowed. Only white-skinned, Christian, English-speaking. Paleface. Honkies welcome.
Excerpted from The Art of the Peeve by Bruce H. Weik. Copyright © 2016 Bruce H. Weik. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 1995, 1,
Chapter 2 1996, 6,
Chapter 3 1997, 11,
Chapter 4 1998, 19,
Chapter 5 1999, 28,
Chapter 6 2000, 37,
Chapter 7 2001, 45,
Chapter 8 2002, 52,
Chapter 9 2003, 63,
Chapter 10 2004, 72,
Chapter 11 2005, 81,
Chapter 12 2006, 94,
Chapter 13 2007, 100,
Chapter 14 2008, 110,
Chapter 15 2009, 119,
Chapter 16 2010, 132,
Chapter 17 2011, 143,
Chapter 18 2012, 144,
Chapter 19 2013, 154,
Chapter 20 2014, 166,
Chapter 21 2015, 173,