Maxed out 

A call to arms

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Like an ancient soldier, long past his active fightin’ days, I am ready to pick up arms and return to the battlefield. I am, at long last, prepared — almost — to do my patriotic duty to my home and native land… the one I left 28 years ago in body, if not entirely in spirit.

Many years ago, when the real call to battle came in the form of a letter from my local draft board, I shirked my duty. Actually, I did my duty as I saw it at the time. I avoided letting the immoral bastards send my sorry butt to Vietnam. Through a combination of artifice, half-truths and purloined letterhead, I played the bureaucracy against itself until they realized I was more trouble than I was worth and was undoubtedly too obstreperous to ever make a good soldier.

This left me free to perform what I considered to be my real duty: attend university, major in altered consciousness, enlist as a footsoldier in the sexual revolution, pinball through various touchy-feely humanities departments until I accidentally graduated, and generally avoid becoming a contributing member of polite society for the better part of a decade. I think those times were what nostalgic people refer to as the good old days. Personally, I think of last ski season as the good old days and I’d be really happy to start thinking of this season as the good old days if mother nature would just get serious about the local snow situation.

I used to believe I was in good company playing the system off against itself and beating the draft. Then I discovered I was in the same company as Dick Cheney, George Bush and most of the current members of the U.S. congress. Now I think I would have been in better company if I’d just taken the honest way out and fled to Canada… which I did, just a decade too late to make the act of moving here a political statement.

But as the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq bleed through their — well, I’ve lost count of how many years this tragic nonsense has been going on; but I know it’s been longer than the World Wars and shorter than the Crusades. Anyway, I’m finally ready to step up and assume my patriotic duty.

I’m ready to go shopping. It is, after all, the only sacrifice the President has asked of the American people not actually in uniform. I’m ready to go cross-border shopping to be precise.

Sort of. The trouble is, I’m not a very good shopper. The truth is, I’m a terrible shopper. Left to my own devices, I’d wear clothes until they reverted to threads — not cool, beatnikspeak threads, actual thread — and flop around on beanbag chairs, if you could still find beanbag chairs. You see, while I was spending all that time in university learning a whole lot of interesting, if marginally useful, trivia, I was inadvertently learning the single most important lesson of my life: how to live on less money than anyone with a hereditary claim on middle-classness has any right, or need, to know how to do.

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