The wild pig story

Someone wrote me the following:

A chemistry professor in a large college had some exchange students in the class. One day, while the class was in the lab, the Professor noticed one student who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said this was no joke.

“You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up – with a gate. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, come through the gate now to eat and then you slam the gate down on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America.

My response was as follows:

This is a favorite story of corporate America that has captured most Americans through television, teaching us year after year what we must buy in order to be cool Americans. We buy on credit. We mortgage our homes and cars. We shop, as the saying goes, until we drop. Then the corporate master teaches us how to get out of debt by going to a debt-consultant who takes more of our earnings to help us pay the corporate overlord.

Corporations do not build fences to catch people. They throw propaganda nets over the people called advertising. The bait in the nets are the TV shows the people watch, and as we watch we are gradually dumbed-down and captured by endless corporate ads that tell us how we must spend our earnings to be acceptable – the new car –the new TV set – the right clothes – on and endlessly on.

Now that we are in debt and need help, the corporations love to tell the pig story. The question they ask is: Why don’t you work to feed yourself and your family? Why aren’t you independent like you should be? Why do you want something free?

I have rarely seen a corporate executive who was hungry. As a corporate executive who tells the pig story he also comes begging to the government to save his company from bankruptcy, and, at the same time, like a true pig, awards himself and his fellow pigs millions in bonuses while over twenty-five percent of America’s children go to bed hungry.

Please tell the children and their parents the pig story.


Housing for the dead

Graveyard-NO-09[1] I am drawn to cemeteries, not because of some ghoulish, even sentimental reason, but because I want to reinforce my already steadfast and final decision that I do not want to be buried in one of those places along with people I do not know, and who if I knew, I would not likely like to be around.

After all, these places take bankers and insurance company executives and even golfers. Sometimes civil defense attorneys who represent bankers and insurance company executives, along with judges who habitually hold for them, are also buried there.

It’s also crowded. The graves are so close that but for the intervention of death one would have been able to reach out and touch one’s rotting neighbors on either side. And if, according to promise, we all magically sprang back to life one day, we would end up talking about the stock market, who was cheated by Madoff, and what one’s latest handicap at the country club was.

What a place to abandon one’s bones to rot, ever so slowly, depending upon how much you were loved (as love is defined by the mortician)! That is to say, if you were truly loved, you would be buried in one of those super, double-lined copper affairs with the anti-rust, anti-bug interiors, and you would be put to rest (and to rot) on a Super Sealy, Sweet Dreams mattress with silk sheets, and oh, they do get cold in the winter.

The point is, that if you are really loved, as one is lead to believe by the undertaker, one will be placed in a coffin that will allow you to rot slower than one decomposes in a cheap, leaking coffin, thus extending the ugly process all the longer.

Instead, I have asserted that I want to be buried in a pine box just deep enough that I won’t be excreted as a coyote turd, but shallow enough that I will become a part of the root system of the willows along the creek and emerge as a pussy willow in the spring time.

Better yet, so as to beat the devil, the fiery furnace of the crematory seems the best. After all, no one will be able to tell whether those are my ashes or the banker’s (miserable joke because I never wanted to get mixed up with bankers) or maybe they are the ashen remains of the old lady’s Chihuahua from across the street that spent its life curled up on her lap.

In any event, I just got back from visiting New Orleans and while there our guide dropped us off at St. Roch Cemetery. I discovered, to my extreme discomfort, that I needed to go number one, so to speak. No pissatories were in sight. So I wandered out in between the old family mausoleums, or whatever those stone, above-the-ground-family-graves are called, and found a place out of sight between a family named Foinheizer and one named McBaker. I looked in all directions to satisfy myself no one was in sight of me, or me of them, and immediately took to the task. Suddenly I had a sense of shame and sadness. Whatever would the families feel if they knew some old Yankee white man was pissing where, there under, Uncle Henry’s feet were or used to be?

How sad that the deceased as well as their immediate descendents, now also long dead, and theirs as well – are so long dead that no one remembers them at all. In fact they have all been dead so long, and it is not so long as long goes – less than a hundred years, that no one came to visit them on Memorial Day.

I know, because as was true for most of the graves, no one left a bouquet of those white plastic lilies or cold, white plastic carnations in a cheap vase at the base of that cold stone structure to honor them.

As I finished my task there above Uncle Henry’s feet I began to understand my shame. I had been taught as a child to honor the dead. Yet I wondered then, as I do now, why one should honor say, Uncle Henry, after his death if he was not honorable before?

Then I met a huge African-American there, a smiling, friendly man with a baseball cap brandishing the New Orleans Saints football Broken-grave-stone-St team. He was at least as large as a Saints tackle. He said he was the caretaker. He pointed out some interesting sights: One, a grave stone had fallen over and broken in two. It was, of course, subject to the same destructive forces of man and nature as the dead it remembered. He told me no one gave a damn about the broken headstone since the man’s predecessors had not paid for perpetual care and the poor stone would just have to lie there for eternity despite the fact that it cast a certain shadow of neglect on the rest of the stones.

Then our guide showed us where a hive of honeybees had occupied the upper reaches of one of the above-ground burial sites. This disturbed the management so they took a torch to the bees the flame of which left its smoke stains on the stone, and me to wonder why things alive and producing sweetness should be such a threat to the dead?

Next he showed us a burial chamber, where he said he once witnessed hordes of cockroaches crawling over the rock and into the tomb. The contents of the tomb had allegedly been dead and decomposed for nearly a century, yet something was attracting the insects who usually like things living or just past living, and all of this raised new questions.

“But what seems a more than casual observation is that the dead here remain in expensive structures, the cost of which far exceeds the value of the shacks that house many of our living poor.”

But what seems a more than casual observation is that the dead here remain in expensive structures, the cost of which far exceeds the value of the shacks that house many of our living poor. And many of the poor, including helpless, hungry children, live in cold, deserted doorways and on the grates in the big cities, some even in the sewers.

I ponder a simple question: Might we better honor our dead by turning dead money spent to honor the dead, honorable or not, into something life-giving by contributing the funds, say, to decent housing for the living?

At last my companion caretaker told me that if the heirs did not keep up their monthly payments that the occupant would be evicted. When I asked, to what place the said occupant would be relocated, he said he didn’t know. Presumably there is a pauper’s field nearby.

So what? Remember, the rapture. Some insist that all the coffins will be thrown open on judgment day and the good, rattling occupants will be drug up to heaven whether they want to go or not. Which leads me to object. Who really wants to spend eternity with a bunch of angels? If you met one you might take a fancy to, the wings would get in the way, and after about ten thousand years, wouldn’t one get tired of listening to some dreamy-eyed sweetheart playing the harp?

Argus Joseph Thompson, Insane, on Love

In the fall in Jackson Hole the frost swipes the leaves from the trees like a mad painter stripping wet paint from his canvas.  But this fall the frost had touched only lightly, and the aspens and the cottonwoods had turned translucent and yellow.   The first light stroked the cornices of the Gable Peaks, and the granite rims turned pink, and the snow at the top was also pink.  The leaves of the chokecherries turned the color of tree-ripened peaches, and the mountain ash was red with its clusters of seeds as shiny as red porcelain peas, and the wild geese flew across a Mediterranean sky proclaiming their profound joy, and the early light was aglow on Jenny’s face and on her hair.

“Soon the leaves will fall down,” I said. “It makes me sad.

“The leaves have no regret,” she said.  “It’s only change, and change is beautiful.”

Then it came blurting out: “Jenny, there must be something wrong with you.”

“Of course there’s nothing wrong with me,” she replied still gazing into the early morning light.  The light was light yellow.

“Then why would such a woman as you fall in love with the likes of me?  You’ll have to admit, there must be something wrong.”

She turned to study me.  “Argus, are you feeling bad?”
I tried to explain to her that it was as if she were blind, and being blind had fallen in love with a person who people with eyes would have found unattractive to the extreme.

“You can’t see yourself, Argus.  You can’t see your soul and you can’t see your beauty.”

“You can’t see how crazy things are in here,” I said.  “It’s like the lions are loose inside the circus tent and the people are panicked and running every which way trying to get out.”

“You’re very brave to live in such a place, Argus.”

“No,” I said.  “I am the world’s greatest coward.  And I think I am insane and…”

“Argus,” Jenny said putting her arms around me and looking up into my eyes—she didn’t have to look up very far—”that is what I love about you.  You are who you are and…”

“Maybe I’m crazy, Jenny,” I said.  “Maybe that’s the truth.”

“No, Argus.  You’re not crazy. It’s crazy out there.  Not knowing what’s real is real.”

“My God!” I cried.  “That’s really crazy!”

“Besides, you’re an animal,” she said bearing her teeth and letting out a growl and laughing, and then she grabbed me in ways and in places, and we were like mating tigers, growling and wrestling and screaming, and after that when we lay together in each other’s arms she said, “I love you for many, many deep reasons,” and I felt clear about it for the moment, and I felt beautiful.

That is what falling in love is about, I thought.  It’s when the other shows you your own beauty in such a way that you can, for that magical instant, see it, and you can feel love for yourself.


Argus Joseph Thompson, Insane, on the Environment

Since in these days we have become more interested in the environment I thought it helpful to quote Argus Joseph Thomspon, Insane, on some of his scattered and irrelevant thoughts on the subject.  He begins describing the early light in the mountains of Wyoming.

Ah, the early light is the light!  Nets of light.  Yellow lattices of light.  Great tubs of light spilling on the aspens, and the tips of the sagebrush glow like embers in the blacksmith’s forge, and the jagged edges of the mountains turn molten.

In the early light the air is brittle and snaps at the ears.  Magpies squawk and the marmots shoot chirps so straight and shrill old boulders crack, and squirrels chip—chip, chip like squeaking wagon wheels, and the coyote yaps until the sun warms the tips of his shedding fir.  Then he curls up in the early light and, silent as blue bells, he smiles and slumbers.

In the early light the breath of horses make golden mist, and their long nose hairs are light yellow with frost, and you can see their jaws smashing golden grasses and yellow prairie daisies, and once at such an early time a great bull elk, its rack in velvet, walked among the horses and then disappeared into the web of shadows.

He has a girlfriend named Jenny.  They are searching for a nearly extinct creature named the “Two-toothed snail.” Argus continues in his description:

Through the cabin window the early light touched Jenny and left her ablaze in joy, and she glowed in a strange wisdom that usually only animals and children possess.  Some call it innocence, but it is wisdom all the same.  The forest creatures acquire it from walking with their bare feet touching the earth and from eating from the earth and from being nourished by the earth’s wisdom.   In the early light Jenny’s eyes were like the wild doe—soft and deep and focused on a place beyond my vision.  And I felt such joy, such pain, I thought, if only I were struck in eternal rejoicing like a rock.

“Rocks are happy!”  I cried.  “I can actually feel their happiness!”

Jenny touched my cheek with golden fingertips.  “Yes, rocks are very happy.”  And oh,

I wondered how

Such as she

Could ever love

The likes of me.

But their joy is interrupted by a knowledge that General-O Dynamics, a mammoth multinational corporation, is about to invade the forest and destroy it for lumber to sell to the Japanese.  Some of the trees are four hundred years old.

Then as quickly Jenny fell into deep shadows.  “When they come with their bulldozers and their chain saws and strip the forest bare and muddy the stream and turn the air blue with diesel exhaust, the last of the Two-tootheds will be gone forever.”

“Maybe we’re too late anyway,” I said.

“You must keep your faith on,” Jenny said. “I know they’re up there, Argus.”

I said, “When Judge Hammond hears about what General-O Dynamics is going to do to the forest he’ll stop ’em cold with a TRO as we lawyers call it, a temporary restraining order.”

“Argus, the law doesn’t protect the earth.  The law protects those who destroy the earth.  The Constitution doesn’t protect animals and trees and buttercups.  A corporation can murder fifty million buttercups and not one can sue.”

But the Constitution protects everything.  Great legal minds like Judge Scalia claimed the Constitution even protected unborn human pollywogs in the first trimester, and if the Constitution protected pollywogs then it ought to protect the two-toothed snail as well.

“Judge Hammond is a Reagan appointee, and he understands the right to life,” I said.   “I’ll explain to him about the Great Wheel Up in the Sky and how the two-toothed is a spoke, and. . .”

And then Jenny grabbed me and kissed me for the longest time, and I thought that all that legal talk about TRO’s and constitutional law must have excited her.

When we came up for air I said, “TRO’s are rendered only if there is no adequate remedy at law, and… ” and sure enough she kissed me again.

How Argus Joseph Thompson, insane, became a lawyer

As you may remember, Argus Joseph Thomson is a poor lawyer specializing in Poor Law for the poor. Here he tells us how he was driven to become a lawyer.

His childhood friend, Doc Blomister, had been working as an undertaker’s assistant and was charged with having sexually violated the corpse of a well-known movie star who was said to have died from over-exuberant frolicking with a Wyoming cowboy. They had Doc cold, pictures and all.

The charges shocked the community considering the fact that Doc enjoyed all of the apparent accouterments of normalcy and good citizenry. He attended the Baptist Church every Sunday; he was an officer in the Junior Chamber of Commerce; he served as an Assistant Scout Master, and he was an avid member of the Cowboy Joe Club, those rabid boosters of the University of Wyoming football team. But you can never tell about the secret stuff that stews away inside of people, especially immigrants from Pumpkin Buttes.

Doc’s lawyer pled Doc “not guilty by reason of insanity.” At the trial a psychiatrist, Dr. Henrietta Homony, testified that Doc’s depravity was attributable to the abuse he’d suffered as a child at the hands of Miss Bromley – the trauma of which, Dr. Homony testified, left Doc terrified of the opposite sex and powerless to relate to living women. “This is irrefutable evidence of his insanity,” the shrink testified, “because as every mentally healthy male should realize, the female of the species is essentially harmless and easily dominated by the superior, stronger male in whom God had entrusted the fate of the species.”

Doc’s lawyer hauled Miss Bromley into court to testify. She was the teacher at Pumpkin Buttes country school where both Doc and Argus attended.

“When you caught Wilbur Blomister down at the creek with Bessy Lou Hogelstein playing doctor what did you do?” the lawyer asked Miss Bromley.

“I don’t have to answer you,” Miss Bromley said lifting her chin. “That’s privileged.”

“Answer his question,” Judge Hammond interjected.

“I did what any decent woman would have done.”

“What’s that?” Doc’s lawyer asked.

“I won’t answer.”

“You’ll be in contempt of court if you don’t,” the judge snarled.

“Come over here and I’ll show you,” she said to Doc’s lawyer as she reached into her apron pocket.

“Answer the question,” the judge said.

“I’ll answer, but this is a form of rape. You are extracting from me what I do not wish to give. I swatted his little. . .what do you call it, Your Honor?”

“Call it whatever you want,” the judge said.

“If I have to say such a word I wish to use only the correct, legal terminology.”

“Call it his do-whackey,” the judge said.

“I spanked his little do-whackey with my ruler,” Miss Bromley said.

“Thank you,” the lawyer said.

“I should hope so,” Miss Bromley said. “That was the least I could do under the circumstances, and I made him promise he’d never do such a thing again as long as he lived.”

Later the lawyer called Doc to the stand in his own defense. He had grown into a nice looking young man, and his lawyer had him dressed in his three-piece black undertaker’s suit. His hair was cut short and slicked down with the latest hair grease for men so that he looked like an IBM sales rep.

“Why did you do this terrible thing, Mr. Blomister?” the lawyer asked right out. Doc didn’t answer. He looked down at his hands and began to weep.

“Tell the jury, Mr. Blomister.”

Finally Doc began to mumble something through his sobs.

“Speak up, Mr. Blomister!”

Then Doc said something about being in love and something about loneliness and that’s all his lawyer could get from him.

Doc’s lawyer took less than a minute to sum up for the jury. “What this man did was the unspeakable crime of a madman,” he whispered. “But think how lonely it is to be a corpse in a drawer in the morgue. Think of that ladies and gentlemen!” Thereupon Doc’s lawyer submitted his case, and the jury was out only long enough to elect a foreman and take a single ballot before they returned their verdict, and Judge Hammond sentenced poor Doc that same day to forty years, which is probably longer than he would have gotten had he murdered the woman in the first place.

I visited Doc in the Teton County Jail before they transferred him to the state penitentiary at Rawlins. He was wearing his blue denim jailhouse clothes and he looked pale and helpless. I didn’t know what to say to him.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Argus,” Doc finally said. “Ya shouldn’t never have nothin’ to do with the likes a me.”

“You’re my friend, Doc. Everybody makes mistakes. We all have our stuff.”

Then, like a small boy, Doc asked, “Do you have stuff, too, Argus?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is yer stuff like my stuff?” he asked hopefully.

“No, Doc,” I said. Doc looked disappointed.

“Was yer stuff as bad as mine?”

“Stuff is stuff,” I said.

“No, stuff ain’t stuff. There is stuff and there is stuff. An’ my stuff is the worst there is.”

“No, Doc,” I said, and I started to reach out and touch his arm, but I thought better of it. It seemed wrong to touch a person when he’s in jail.

“It’s awful in here,” Doc said. “I hope they kill me.” He was silent for a long time. Then he said, “All I think of is the Buttes,” and he choked up, but he held it back because real men are not supposed to cry, especially in jail.

“You’ll make friends,” I said.

“They won’t have nothin’ to do with somebody that done the stuff I done.”

“But, Doc, there are murderers in there, and rapists in there and people who beat up old ladies and there’s people in there who’ve done terrible things to little kids. You didn’t hurt anybody. Yer stuff isn’t so bad.”

Suddenly Doc asked, “What did you do, Argus?”

“Well, Doc,” I said, “a man can’t talk about his own stuff.” Then I knew I should have told Doc about Marilyn Monroe because all the hope drained from Doc’s face, and his eyes looked like they were painted on with flat brown Kem-Tone, but Doc would have never understood. Nobody understands anybody else’s stuff. “You’ll be all right, Doc,” I said. “You can learn to make license plates, and you’ll meet a lot of interesting people.” Suddenly I began to cry, and Doc, being very considerate, turned his back.

Then a guard as big as a beer-wagon horse came in and hollered at me, “Hey, you a friend of this stiff-fucker?”

“Don’t you call him that!” I said, and I took a big wild swing at the guard who slammed me up against the bars, picked me up off the floor and heaved me out of the cellblock like he was throwing slop to the chickens.

After that I retried Doc’s case over and over in my mind. I would have argued it differently. I would have riveted the jury with steady eyes and in a low, deliberate voice I’d have said:

“Ladies and gentlemen: Wilbur ‘Doc’ Blomister is a very nice person. He’d never commit rape, and he’d never commit robbery. He’d never hurt another living being; he’d never even kick a mean dog. This would be a better world if there were more people like Doc. Think of it! There’d be no little children with their heads smashed in and old folks beaten and robbed. Why, the FBI would be out of business, and the politicians wouldn’t have to compete with each other to see who could be the toughest on crime, because there wouldn’t be any crime. That’s the kind of world we’d have if everybody was like my client, Doc Blomister.”

“Now Doc testified about love. But we’ve all been in love with the dead. I, myself, have been in love with Marilyn Monroe for years, and I know plenty of people who are still in love with Elvis Presley. And so I ask that you find that Doc is only a poor lonely man who is afraid to love the living. We all need to love and to be loved, don’t we?” I looked at the jury, but they stared back at me with Kem-Tone eyes.

“It’s a frightening thing to love somebody. It can cause great injury to your heart, isn’t that true?” Doc is no criminal. Criminals injure the living. Doc is only a poor lonely man. I wish you could forgive him.” But the jury wouldn’t forgive him. I looked from juror to juror, but in my mind’s eye I saw them sitting still and stony like 12 cadavers. I thought, “Oh, Lord, the jury is dead, and they’ll find poor Doc guilty for having violated one of their own. Probably render the death penalty.”


After that Argus decided to go to law school.

Argus tell us: How the FBI solves its cases

Argus tells us:

How the FBI solves its cases

Now let’s try to be serious just once.  Here is what Argus told me about his exposure to FBI deal-making methods as taught at the U. Wyoming Law School.  Take heed!


So the FBI wanted to make a deal with me.  Little wonder.  The FBI couldn’t make a case without a deal.   I remembered studying “Deals 301” in law school.  Professor George Washington Carver Jones, the only black professor at the University of Wyoming, taught the class.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation has merely fallen in line with the preponderant persuasion in America—that deals are what it’s all about—mergers, takeovers, magical paper transactions that reap immediate wealth and make the dull and unproductive instantly rich and famous. Fuck this making stuff,” Professor Jones cried as he paced in front of the class.  That’s why Professor Jones always got the highest student evaluation in the law school.  The students loved to hear him use solid words.  “Fuck this work, for Christ sakes!  Work is for (the n-word.)”  The kids loved to hear him say the “n-word.”  He was the only one who could say it.  “The money is in deals.  Deals, man!  And that’s how the FBI sees it too.

“Today, in modern America, the FBI pretends to investigate, but its agents tap phones and plant bugs under beds so they can listen to the snoring and love-making.  They’d rather hear a couple of (n-words) fuck than make an honest case,” Professor Jones said boosting his rating ten points.  “Occasionally an agent subpoenas a document, and if things get boring a couple of honkies with the collars of their topcoats turned up and wearing snap-brimmed fedoras and imitation Porsche sunglasses corner a witness and scare the living shit out of him.  But they don’t engage in detective work.  They are merely getting things set up to make a deal.

“Now when the guy is ‘ripe,’ as the Bureau likes to phrase it, when the pressure has been on the suspect for Lord-knows-how-long, and the poor bastard has laid awake for six months staring up at the ceiling wondering how to convince his wife and his kids and the old folks at home that he is really innocent, when he gets up in the morning and the first thing that hits him is a ghastly fear that makes his heart beat out of sync, then like the Chinese water torture, the fear dripping down, the terror of the unknown having captured his mind, the pain of it, minute by minute, hour by hour, day after relentless day, wearing away at him until he has endured one drip too many, well, then he disintegrates into an inglorious pile of blubbering fucking rubble at the feet of the FBI, and he’s ready for a deal!”  At the conclusion of the longest sentence uttered by a professor in our law school career, we erupted in loud hoops and applause.

Professor Jones bowed slightly and continued.  “The FBI has several classes of deals available.  The Class I deal is made with subjects who are guilty of nothing and against whom the Bureau has no case whatsoever.   But they have been harassed so long they think they’re guilty, or still believing themselves innocent, they’re helpless to defend themselves, and stupefied by fear, they’ll testify to anything or against anybody if the Bureau will only leave them alone.

“But the FBI makes Class II deals, too.  The Class II deal is for subjects who are actually guilty, but still running at large.  Usually the more guilty you are the better deal you can make.  The Class II dealee might be more guilty than the guy they’re after, but to nail the ‘target,’ the Class II dealee can walk or take ‘short time’ in exchange for his testimony against the target who will likely get twenty years to life. The target could be innocent.  That is not the point.  The point is the deal.  The government isn’t in business to solve cases.  It isn’t in the business of bringing criminals to justice.  The government has but one function and one function only—to make good, solid, saleable deals!”

“Amen,” some smartass in the back hollered.  But Professor Jones paid him no heed.

“Then there are the Class III deals—for inmates.  Here the Bureau scrapes the bottom of the deal barrel.  Everybody wants out of prison, and if an inmate can conjure up a good enough story against the target, the Bureau will make the inmate a fucking deal.  I don’t use the word loosely but with legal precision, because…”  He paused with perfect timing, surveying the class.  We waited, our hearts pounding with excitement.  “Because the deal is to fuck your brother.  Deals!  Buying and selling!  That’s what life in America is all about today.  After the Class III prisoner testifies he’ll be placed on the Witness Protection Program.  A Class III deal is a peachy deal for convicts who have a good story and are good salesmen.  Most crooks are.  Most honest people are not.”

We tried to write down every word the professor uttered.  “The Class IV deal, the most common deal of all, is one in which the suspect is both the fuckee and the fuckor.  He may be guilty or not.  If he admits his guilt the government will be easier on him than if he makes the government prove its case by bringing in Class I, II or III deals against him.  When you’re the target it’s pretty frightening.  You’ve been rotting in jail awaiting trial for eight months without a single ray of sunshine once touching your sickly black hide, and they’ve got you charged with something that pulls ten to life, and you’ve got for a lawyer a honky public defender fresh out of law school with 150 other cases.  You’re just one more n-word.  You can get out in two if you plead guilty, and you get good time for the eight months you already spent in jail.  You make a Class IV deal.  I repeat:  It doesn’t make any difference whether you’re guilty or not.  The Bureau doesn’t care.  It’s another case closed.  What counts to the Bureau is that they made a deal!

I stole a glance at the woman student sitting next to me.  Her mouth was open and her lips wet like Marilyn Monroe’s.  Her eyes were filled with love or lust.  In the excitement of the moment I couldn’t tell the difference.

Professor Jones continued, “If you want to be a success, specialize in making deals with the government.  Besides, it’s risky to try a case these days, because jurors know that the last innocent person in America was John Wayne.”

Depression and Mother Nature’s dirty little joke

I recognize that depression can be the result of an insidious chemical imbalance. I am not writing about that miserable ghoul that tries to find a home in many an otherwise healthy person.

We all suffer from depression of some kind and of severity. No one is immune from it. Usually it’s a downer, like a cloudy day that, in my part of the country, is of short duration. When we lose a job, a friend, a loved one, when we are sick or feel lonely, depression seems to be a pretty normal reaction. But is it possible that chronic depression, absent the chemical problem, is also a normal reaction?

We are taught to be joyful, taught to put a smile on our faces, taught to be optimistic and see the cup as half full, not half empty. Happiness is a cultural demand in our society. Are you happy? If not, buy a new car. Are you happy? If not, get a facelift or some other kind of lift. Are you happy? If not, drink a Coors or better yet, get drunk, or call your local dealer. Are you happy? If not, get a new spouse, experience a new love affair or come out of the closet.

Are you unhappy? If so, please do not admit it. You will be seen as sick. You will be subjected to treatment. You may even be jailed as a risk to yourself and others.

What if all of this sunshine called happiness is simply imposed on us like any other belief system? We must be happy or we are sick. We will be in trouble if the cultural imperative of happiness escapes us. Send us to the shrink at an unhappy expense to tell us how happy we should be and who will prescribe happy pills for us.

I think of our dogs. They wag their tails and we see them as essentially happy. But they are not aware of the existential truth and Mother Nature’s dirty little joke that she never tires telling: Birth, struggle, infirmity and death.

We have been given that devilish gift called awareness, some call it intelligence. We were also given the power to make choices. We are defined by our choices. We can be happy, at least cheerful, at least brave, or we can whimper and whine and plod along in our own gloomy mental cave. We can choose to enjoy and cherish that magical gift called life, or we can choose to curse the day we were born. But if we choose the latter, are we sick or simply in tune with the ultimate truth, that Mother Nature is still playing that same little joke on us?

I say we play it back on Mother Nature. Eternity would be hell. On, say, our five-hundred and fifty-seven millionth birthday, or our fifteenth billionth, and we find ourselves still no closer to the end than our beginning, one might be begging Mother Nature: “Please, oh, please play your dirty little joke on us. Please, just this once.” A beginning without an end would, indeed, be hell.

Life without the simple pattern of the flower – its tender shoot emerging in the springtime sun, its strength to rise again after some careless foot has smashed it, its willingness to endure pain as its tight bud unfolds, its incomparable beauty as a blossom and the miraculous spread of its seeds in fall winds is part of Mother Nature’s plan as well.

Perfect. And we are in sync with its magic.

Dear Friends

I am honored that I sometimes get comments that are pages and pages long.  I just can’t absorb these, nor, probably, can most of you.

I am sorry to delete some of these, but I just have to.  Hope you understand.


Poem: First Snow

I have been gone. The first snow has come. I share a poem I wrote many years ago to Imaging:

First Snow

Together we watched the snow cover the ground

In ten minutes.

“Before it’s through

The snow will be up to the doorknob.”

Do you remember saying that?

Then we saw the golden ground give up,

The tall summer grasses, frightened,

Standing stiff

Like old men frozen at the brink

Waiting to be smothered.

“Do not be afraid, grasses,” you said.

“Already you have seeded.

Do not shiver so.

But fight.” Do you remember how you said,

“Oh, please fight!”

And then the blood of golden grasses

Turned all white.

The geese are at the pond. The snow has covered the meadow where they often graze and food is scarce. We toss out corn at the edge of the pond. But soon the geese will fly south. Winter is upon us. I share a question with the old bull elk, and with you. Will we make it another winter?

An argument for slavery

I am grateful to some of my readers who have inquired concerning my health, this in view of the fact that I have not posted for several weeks.  Imaging and I have just returned from a couple of weeks in Istanbul,Turkey.  The jet lag of nine hours is a killer.  I am still exhausted.

As most of you know, I was born in Wyoming and have spent most of my life here.  That makes me little more than a provincial innocent who has sparse first hand appreciation of the history of the human race.  My knowledge of history, as it is viewed on the ground, is one of Indians, and French fur traders and homesteaders, and when it is all gathered up it spans little more than a century.  Growing up and living in Wyoming one never actually touches ancient human history.  But in Istanbul it was a different story.

I was immediately taken by the history there that hit one in the face no matter where one went, the walls of the old city, several yards thick and thirty feet high, or higher – still standing after more than a thousand years.  The mosques, monstrous domed buildings with inlaid tile, the palaces of the Ottoman kings – I mean, if you began to dig a basement there you would encounter centuries of civilization beneath the surface.  I was astounded and left reeling.

I do not mean to turn this post into a travelogue.  But I was told that thousands, yes, hundreds of thousands of slaves built the Blue Mosque in five years, a feat we could not duplicate with our modern machinery.  Slavery.  Nearly every great nation in history was built on the backs of slaves – the Romans, the Egyptians, yes, the castles of the English lords.  The cathedrals in Italy, the Pope’s own quarters, are mostly the products of slave labor.  The human race has advanced on the crumbling bodies and endless sweat of those whose lives were stolen from them by those in power.  The foundation of our nation, too, was a system of slavery.

Nothing changes.  But we have learned to cloak slavery with the myth of freedom.  That is quite an accomplishment.  Yet remember, the slave had a guaranteed sustenance.  He had a pallet of straw to sleep on and he was fed, although little and cheaply.  When he died he was buried in a shallow grave by the master.

Ask the millions of unemployed today who desperately search for work if they are slaves – slaves without masters.  Parents struggle and sacrifice to send their children to college so they can become slaves of corporations that will use them up, and when they are finished with them, cast them out, nowadays often without pensions.  In the old slavery, a child was taken from his parents and sold.  In the new slavery the child, born in Seattle, will leave his family to be educated in Connececut and to work for a corporation in, say, Los Angeles.  The family is no longer a unit that protects its members.  The tribe is gone (unless by becoming a fan of a football or baseball team one joins such an impersonal tribe.)  If we work for others we are slaves with few rights.  When the dead master (the corporation that is and never has been alive) is finished with the slave the slave joins the ranks of the unemployed, feels worthless, worried, lost and wasted.  If we work for ourselves we are slaves to the system, to taxation, to rules of law, to endless regulations that, at last, are mostly intended to benefit the money interests of the nation.  No one can escape the slavery.  The farmer works himself to the bone to reap his crop, but the price he gets is the price that all farmer slaves get – the amount that the corporate system will allow.

I am not arguing against this brand of slavery.  Much of it is necessary in a civilized society, some for the protection of citizens.  But at the bottom of this whole mess of rules, customs, the philosophy of free enterprise, the stock market, the entire business world, the laws and the court system is the overriding interest of power.  We protect money before we protect people.

So when I got back from Istanbul I came to the conclusion that the human species, once we have abandoned the tribe, is hopelessly indentured. The trick, of course, is to become the kind of slave one wants to be, and to exercise enough control over one’s slavery that some happiness, some fulfillment can seep in.  I expect that the slaves who built the Blue Mosque might well have stepped back and seen its beauty and gathered in a bit of pride that they gave their lives to such a monument, one they doubtlessly believed in, as we, indeed, sacrifice our lives to our own various forms of slavery.