Monday, January 30, 2012

For The Love Of Books

A roommate of mine once spent the better part of three months trying to find a book that was out of print. He finally found joy in a bookstore that specialized in hunting down the rare and obscure, and the odd thing was how the final price of the book was rated by the bookstore’s phone bill. Part of the bill for the book was itemized so we could tell who and where the dealer called and I was mesmerized at such a network of bibliophiles. The owner of the store wrote handwritten letters updating my roommate on the progress of the search and with each letter there was an assumption of an upgrade in price, but this was a quest. The damning thing is I can’t remember the title of the book, but I think it was a collection of short stories by one author. I seem to remember a baboon in a hot air balloon.
I once owned thousand of books. The six or seven shelves in my house were all filled with books. I had read most of the fiction and nonfiction yet there were some that were included in boxes of books I had bought, including a yard sale by an animal rescue group that sold me all their books at one time. They had thirty-six boxes of books, trust me, I know exactly how many there were, and they had imposed upon someone to get the books there but were in despair as to what they would do with the unsold books, and how to transport them. The offer of twenty dollars seems low but it was all that I had, and they really didn’t think they would sell much more than that before they stopped for the day. It took an entire day to go through those boxes and it was one of the high points of my life, really, to just look at that many books, and find the real gems. The old books with still good covers, the favorites visited yet again, and the odd misplaced classics, all of this as well as the obligatory Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. The set of encyclopedias from the late 1800’s was a stunning find, really. There were also some mid 1900’s science fiction books hidden among the chaff of romance novels and books on how to make a million dollars selling how to books.
A woman I once knew decided to marry and got boxes to put her books in when she moved in with him. She then decided to give away what she could and out of a few hundred she managed to find a dozen or so that were expendable. She had more boxes of books than she had boxes of other stuff and it was a testament to his love for her that he lugged those things around. He wasn’t a book person. You either are or you have no idea what I am saying here. If you don’t get at least a little judgmental, good or bad, when you look at what’s in someone’s book collection you aren’t one of us.

Books are some of my oldest and closest friends. There for a while they were my only friends. In High School, when I spent the vast majority of my time restricted to my room for bad grades I would read for hours and hours and hours. I wouldn’t waste my time on a book that wasn’t at least a couple of inches thick. A devoured the “Foundation” series by Asimov and then went after “The Lord of the Rings” and haunted the library at school. The mystery was never solved; how can the worst student in school be its best reader? I couldn’t explain “Watership Down” to a senior English class. Yes, it was about rabbits but no it was not a children’s book. The richness and beauty of how the book was written, and the skill of Richard Adams that he put into the writing, transcended the story being about rabbits. It was such a great book, and it still is, Hazel-rah.

Books are real. Books are real in a sense that goes beyond paper and ink. Hitler burned books and if Hitler thought something was bad then you have to see some good in it. The people who seek to limit other people first seek to limit their books. Books are more than just the printed word, and I am here to tell you that in and of itself is enough to inspire reverence, but books are repositories for the thoughts of the human mind for generations. The lonely and damaged mind my body carried in High School found kindred spirits in the back of each book where the names of those who checked out the book were kept, and the dates they had checked the books out. That is gone now, replaced with records that the individual reader cannot see, and I think that sad. I remember names reoccurring in books that I liked, and I wonder after I was gone, if someone carrying a damaged mind saw my name in the back of yet another book, and smiled.
This isn’t the last rant of an aging paper junkie who does see the writing on the screen. Books will change with the times and the days of the hardcover and the paperback are numbered, at the upper left. The modern age of reading is not ending, but rather I believe that it has only just begun. Books were not the apex of an epoch but instead they were the first experiments with fire that will now spread in ways we have only glimpsed. Books, entire volumes of ideas, can be sent in an instant to millions of readers, and this is mighty. Hitler could not stop the book and against such as we have access today I believe the freedom of the press might be more powerful than any one man, except maybe, Mark Zuckerberg.

This is truly a wonderful time to be a writer. I have never had this sort of opportunity to meet the people I have meet through my writing, and theirs. You, yes, you, that was your name, wasn’t it, in the back of that book? I thought I recognized that smile. Ah, but wasn’t “Crime and Punishment” a wonderful, wonderful, book?

Take Care,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

There have been many times in my life when I have been totally at ease in complete darkness. It isn’t for everyone, I know that, and there are many people who get freaked out whenever they are left to their own devices in total darkness. My younger sister is one of them, and my material grandmother was another. This isn’t to imply this is a gender issue but I will lay claim to the darkness disorder being on of cultural inheritance. We humans see better with light but this has been taken to an extreme that is blinding us all.
The black belongs to those of us who remember it. I remember the tomes before security lights and blinding everywhere- you- go- illumination.  A man could once see a million more stars at night than can be seen now and each nighttime horizon has more and more sunrises from towns that light up the skies with photo-pollution. There are keychains with lights on them so you can find the right key and the correct place to slip it into.  There are more and more lights and people can see less and less clearly at night.

What has confounded many a scientist over the ages is how cave painting were done so well and there not be any more ceiling scorching than there is. There is evidence torches were used in the caves but the drawing and paintings in the caves in France must have taken many hours yet there just aren’t that many torch marks or that much soot to be found. Some, true enough, but not enough to shed light on how they managed to do so much work with so little light.

If you knew the smell of a torch might mean someone else out there would know what you were doing and the light of a torch would announce to everyone and everything where you were, how big of a torch would you carry? Would it be one of those four foot long Hollywood torches you see in all the movies or would you carry illumination just enough for you to see what you were doing? Excess in all things is a strictly modern trait and to attribute it to our ancestors thirty-thousand years ago is foolish and misguiding.

How much light do you really need to open your door at night when you are carrying an armload of groceries? I do it on a regular basis with no light. My fingers find the right key by touch. The slot for the key is clear to me in total darkness because this is how I have opened this door for over eleven years now. I can find the handle to my truck door in the dark, and I frequently navigate my home and property without light. Could you change a tire in total darkness? Could you wash a load of clothes without a light? Could you walk ten miles to a cave in a few hours, in total black night, and in subfreezing temperatures?  You do realize that the harnessing of light in any form is more or less a modern trait also, do you not? The movies that show ancient Egyptians with palaces that are lit up Las Vegas style are very likely incorrect, at best.

When we draw or write we use a surplus of light. My efforts on a computer lights up a room with enough light to have several Abraham Lincolns doing math homework on the head of a shovel with a piece of coal and it doesn’t seem excessive to me now. But after a couple of hours of writing I can go into the backyard with the dogs and I am all but blind. This isn’t the way we began, you know, and it isn’t the way we have to be now. But we’ve come to believe dark and foreboding are one in the same and they are not. 

You have to remember that as a class of human beings, artists have nearly always been those who stayed in the darkness. Not because we are evil or depressed, but because late at night is when the Muse will visit, and by the light of a low fire, the cave drawings might have been done. How much light is needed by those who have little to begin with? How many great writers scribble away thousands of years ago by moonlight, starlight, and the light of a tiny oil lamp? How much of what we consider to be literature was written by the flame of a single candle? How many words have been typed away on a mechanical typewriter when there was only the light of a single bare bulb, dangling overhead?

Imagine if you will the coals that you might cook a hamburger upon, or roast a few ears of corn with. Imagine that this was the brightest light that you could afford without having to go get firewood, or risk giving yourself away in the night ( or in the day) for cave bears were known to love caves of all things. Who can say? Was this something an entire group of people did? Was one person in the clan appointed to paint? Was this a social event, a ceremony, a plea to the gods, a flight of passion, or something that we of the bright lights and instant access to everything, simply cannot comprehend?

We will never know.

Nothing exists of these people but stone tools, some bones, and the cave paintings. We know they buried their dead, but not in the Cave of Forgotten Dreams. There are no human remains left behind there. That cave doesn’t seem to be used for living, but rather, perhaps, the first art gallery. Perhaps the presence of large predators made making art the first dangerous form of self-expression. Perhaps before we humans chased the cave bears away our art was created there for some shamanistic reason.

We will never know.

But there are still those of us who fear no darkness, who walk with the dogs in the night full of stars, and who see quite well when there seems to be nothing there but fear, and a cave of dreams.

Take Care,

Kate Winslet: 'I Don't Look Like That And I Don't Desire To Look Like That'

How to Remove Ads From You Tube

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Other Tribe

Working at night was what I think being addicted to heroin must be like. I’ve never been hooked on anything worse than cigarettes and quite honestly I am not sure there is anything worse. Night work stretched out in front of me like a hundred million marathons with each night going on forever with any break in the heat or the artificial darkness or the endless hours. Each day was spent trying to sleep, trying to rest, and trying not to dread the night that rushed towards me                           like a slow moving mudslide of despair. My social life ceased to exist. I worked over ten hours a day, five days a week, spent one day a week in a daze and one day a week trying to get my life in order for the next week. We did this for eight months and then one day it was all over.
Working on the interstate at night meant out of the darkness would come a human form, shuffling like a zombie, eyes weirdly lit, clothing shabby, and that odd look on his face as if he had been given some mission, finally, he could understand. Yes, we did have work lights out there, portable towers with banks of white bright lights on them, but the light destroyed all night vision and deepened shadows. Fatigue cut into the ability to see, and to react to what was seen, so when a poorly dressed wreck of a human came out of the dark it was a surprise, always, and frightening, sometimes, and weird in a way I cannot explain.

They had learned not to crowd the marks. The training program for the homeless is nothing if not a precise art. No politician ever had a speech written more succinctly. I imagined that one night I would happen upon their university in some dry culvert, with words to be used on one wall, words like “sir” and “ma’am” and “please” and “God Bless”  and on the opposite wall, written in chalk from a dirt dauber’s nest, would be the concepts, the storylines, the narratives, of the industry, and all would and could, recite them by rote.

Me and my wife and three kids were traveling down to Florida, and we broke down and got stranded at that last exit so I walked all the way down here looking for some gas, and we haven’t eaten in three days and the dog got hit by a car and died, and I ain’t heard from my mama in a week, and my wife’s cancer came back, and little Timmy’s leg needs an operation, please sir, if you could just gimme a dollar, please, just fifty cents, please, I’m begging for my baby girl, she ain’t et in a week now, and she’s lying there crying, I can’t stand it have you got a beer?”

You’d give one a dollar to get rid of him, to get him away from the work, and later than night see him stumbling out of the truck stop with a six pack of cheap beer, holding it like a running back, heading for the woods, or an overpass, trying to avoid the other homeless who would want him to share. Each overpass a collection of beer cans, bottles, used toilet paper, and the smell of urine. Some of the men on the crew were mean to them; cruel to the point we would have to rein them in. One man threw a handful of change into the highway, into the middle of the Interstate, just to make a homeless chase it. It was incredibly horrible to do this. The homeless would believe forever and ever there was another dime out there he had missed. As we moved slowly forward we left him behind in the dark and as traffic got near he would stand at the edge hoping to see the reflection of silver in the light.

It is very easy, and perhaps even idiomatic, for us to put these people in a category that includes metal illness, substance abuse, or perhaps laziness. What if none of this was who or what they are, but rather a symptom of how they deal with a world in which who and what they are isn’t any more productive than how they are living now? You admire the works of a man who carves angels out of stone, but who was this man if he had been born on an island of fisherfolk living in the South Pacific? Albert Einstein, a man of a remarkable mind and now the symbol of great intellect, who would he be had he been born in the American colonies, on the frontier, in 1700? Georgia O'Keeffe born in Hiroshima, 1920, might have never grown up at all, or never painted. The human wrecks that you see on the road might be exactly as they appear, and they may be all we expect them to be. Or it may very well be they are human beings whose minds, and spirits and talents fit into our world not at all.

These people seem so alike in so many ways I wonder sometimes if they are now all part of some genetically alike group who we are forcing into extinction. Our heavily structured society gives them no way to reproduce and survive except on the outer edges. Like the Natives of this country who were pushed off their lands and nearly died out, the homeless may be of a tribe of people who cannot adjust to a society that is so bound by the clock and so enslaved to money. They version of freedom seems to us a life of squalor and despair yet they are not the ones out on the road for months on end, working a dangerous job for little money and no comfort at all.

The idea of some people being genetically predisposed towards being unable to accept civilization as we define it is sort of a foggy thing. Yet so much of how we have advanced in culture was considered too weird or insane, in the beginning. I am not saying that each person you see on the road is a genius undiscovered. I am saying that each person on the road is not some drunk who crashed out of society and landed at the bottom. We, those of us willing to work long hours for no joy, created this world. Who are we to judge those unable to live in it?

Take Care,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Woman Who Sang "Caroline"

Angles. Walls. Shadows. Emotions of  yearning, all of these are memories I think I have of being an infant. I say I think I have these memories but who can say what memories are real and which are false? There was a mobile hanging over my crib that had a redbird, a cardinal, as part of the flock that circled endlessly and one day I discovered it on the floor. I tore one of its wings off and bit into the body. There was sand inside of the tiny bird’s body and that was one of the first sensations I remember; grit in my mouth.
    There isn’t a method to reveal if these memories are real or not. There may be one day some device suitable for reading memories but the troubled recall we have now is all there is. Each time a memory is recalled it is changed in some way. Each recollection drives a wedge of fantasy or perception between what really was and what we believe, in a very religious way. We know this, of course, but we cling to the past, all made up in our heads, as if it were words transcribed in solid concrete.

Verifiable evidence makes things better, but it also makes things much worse. In my birthtown of Cuthbert Georgia, there is a statue of a soldier in the town square. We left that place when I was four so I can say with some degree of accuracy I had at least one memory that predates my fourth birthday. I remember when I was thirty-four I went to Cuthbert as part of my work and saw that statue again for the first time in thirty years. Instantly, the statue in the memory was modified, never to return, and the real statue took its place. But you see, now in my mind there is a memory just like there was before. If I went back today the memory would change again. It is never really there but it is also never really gone.

“Like a memory in motion, you were only passing through. That is all that you’ve ever known of life and that’s all you’ll ever do.”

I recalled those lyrics from memory and I am reasonably certain they are exact. I am totally convinced the song is titled, “Caroline” and the name of the group is “Concrete Blonde” and the name of the CD is “Bloodletting” Ah, but the name of the woman who sings “Caroline” escapes me. Her last name, my memory reports to me is Napolitano. I suspect the name isn’t right, exactly but it is close. Close? How can a memory be close? But we all have experienced a memory we know isn’t right but “close” Something like that. I know “Janet” is wrong but “close”.

If you asked me to sing that song, and recorded my efforts, I suspect my sense of timing would be off, and I doubt if I could get the lyrics right. Yet if I play “Caroline” I’ll remember the words as what’s-her-name sings them.  The name hasn’t returned yet.  Let’s say I do not look the name up. Why is it that if I get some friends to send me suggestions as to what her name is, when the correct name arrives, I’ll know it, but not until then? If I did not listen to “Caroline” for thirty years, would I know the name of the woman or the lyrics on my eighty-first birthday?

All things human are fallacious and all things human fail. We are all masters of sinking ships. We can hope to close some gaps and frantically bail, but the woman who sang “Caroline” is a lesson not a lie. Since the song came out in the mid-eighties, I suspect the group “Concrete Blonde” is no more, and unless she is one of those aging rockers who keep plugging away at it, the woman who sang “Caroline” is likely doing something else for a living, or not living at all. Her name… it still escapes me. How much more will I lose before the last wave covers my ashes? The storage unit has a hole in it that leaks reality and lets in moonshine.

If someone from my past was to arrive now, in this future, where are all the memories that represents that person stored and how are they so stored that unless some song, or scene, or chance meeting, pulls forth the mist from the pond, so I might interpret it as my mood demands? The human mind is a graveyard of the past, and we look upon the bones as if they were who we once knew. Someone you once loved and lost, decades removed from your heart and life, can stumble into you at the grocery and suddenly your mind reinvents time as well as reality.  

When I was a little boy photos were imperfect and rare. Not everyone had a camera, not all shots came out, and not all events where worthy of being preserved. Not one photo was taken the night the Titanic sank, no one updated their status or tweeted about the event as it happened. The emotions and horror were recorded only in the human mind and no one lives now who was aboard that boat when it slammed into hardened water. Now children have their own video cell phones and nearly every waking moment can be recorded.  The captured past is stored safely and permanently but time stalks this medium too. I own disks with information on them I cannot retrieve. One day my flash drives will be obsolete. One day my hard drive will be a relic, tossed away, and what you are reading right now, will be some ancient writing method awaiting oblivion, very much like the author, and you.

Damn, I really thought I would remember her name. I have search every name I know, every character in every book I remember (remember!) and nothing. The woman who sang “Caroline” has slipped away. I will see her name and instantly know the truth, but now, at this moment, I see not the past, but the future.

Take Care,

To everyone who loves dogs

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Killing Kids

It gets past me, really, the thing about killing kids. I do not particularly like children as a class of people, and I didn’t like them much when I was a kid.  Yet it never occurred to me that killing a kid was something that I, or anyone else, ought to do.  Some guy in north Georgia just killed himself in prison after confessing to killing a seven year old girl. No reason, really. The little girl wasn’t loud or destructive, toting a thermonuclear device around, or constantly singing Justine Berber songs.

This guy just wakes up one day and decides to kill a child, and now, once he’s thought about it for a while, hangs himself.

I’ve been revisiting the West Memphis 3 case in the last couple of days and it astounded me that three little boys could be murdered and not one piece of condemning evidence could be found, or at least that’s the way it’s portrayed on television. Three very young men were convicted, one sentenced to die for the crimes, but they were all released last year because so many holes appeared in the case.

Justice, in this case, really hasn’t been done because no one knows who killed three little boys. It’s good if the three were innocent and they were set free, that is important, but we still have three dead little boys who were killed in 1993. There has been three movies, several accusations, a lot of talk, but not one person who the evidence declares guilty. One of the relatives of the children, a man by the name of Mark Byers, shuffled into the spotlight and hillbillied his way into all three moves, was named a suspect by most everyone who knew him, but in the end, there wasn’t any evidence he did it either. Byers may very well have killed the kids, but mostly he was just nuts and liked being on camera.

So who killed those three kids?

Casey Anthony walked after a jury declared her not guilty. That outranged a nation but the bottom line is there wasn’t a shred of evidence against the woman except she’s a pathological liar, and she didn’t report her daughter missing for a month. So help me dog, I would have put her away just for not reporting her kid missing but that’s just me. And a few million of my closest friends.

The whole sex with kids gets right by me too. I can remember a time in my life a girl fifteen years old was fair game. Of course, I was in High School at the time, and most of the girls I knew of dating age were far younger than eighteen. When I turned eighteen and became legally an adult the rules changed because dating young girls meant I could be arrested. By twenty-one, anyone who wasn’t old enough to drive was a kid. By the time I was twenty-five anyone too young to vote was jail bait. When I hit thirty it seemed like woman in their early twenties were just advanced High School girls. Once I got past fifty I wouldn’t give anyone female a second glance unless they’re old enough to have daughters in college, or older.

I do understand there are female humans out there under the legal age of consent who are having sex with underage partners and I think they’re playing with fire, but hey, I got burned at that time in my life, and that’s just part of trying to grow up. But hey!  If you’re old enough to vote you’re old enough to stay the hell off the school yard.

It seems like a lot of the people who kill kids also rape them and when you mix the two crimes together that’s a synergy that is evil to the point you can damn near bottle it. Jon Benet Ramsey’s parents paraded her around dressed up like a twenty dollar hooker and much to everyone’s surprised the little girl was found assaulted and murdered. I think once someone stops looking at kids as kids then very bad, very bad, very bad, things begin to take place in the human mind. Dressing them the part invites trouble of a species that ought to be extinct. My heart goes out to those parents, especially since they were accused of killing their daughter and it turned out not to be true, but dressing  a four year old up like a street walker is just plain damn wrong.

I don’t get that either, by the way, beauty contests for little girls.

Kids aren’t something I want, or have ever wanted. I don’t particularly like anyone who isn’t old enough to string together a few cogent thoughts without whiplashing to another totally unrelated subject without warning. I don’t like people who pull dogs’ tails. I could give a damn less about any honor student at your school. I don’t like the idea that I can’t go out to eat without some two year old screaming two tables away from me. Some five year old with a Ritalin IV drip damn near clipped me with a shopping cart one day and nearly took my knee out. Most of the problems people have in life that are money related are child related, and we have all been down that road before, have we not?

But for some reason, when I read about someone that has killed a kid I have to wonder what was wrong, so terribly and incurably wrong with that person? I have to wonder why they would do that to a kid, when even Bert, wizened and white faced and grumpy, would allow the Puppy Lucas to climb all over him over two years ago. As a species, are dogs truly that much tolerant than we, or is it they are just less crazy?

While I was watching the show last night about the three little boys who were murdered so many years ago, it still broke my heart into a million pieces.

Take Care,

Hitler reacts to SOPA

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Eagle Nebula Multi-Wavelength View [720p]

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act

The proponents of the Second Amendment are some of the most rabid activists operating within the law, at least in the United States. Their train of thought runs along a single track, straight and true, and there isn’t much chance of derailment of that locomotive or loco motive anytime soon. They believe the government cannot be trusted and armed voters are more powerful than unarmed voters. They think if the government can take the guns then the government can take the rest of the Constitution as well. I think some of these people are more than a little crazy. But the crazy people with the guns do not frighten me nearly as much as the people who truly think we would be better off if citizens had no guns. I like being armed. And like the rest of the people with guns who aren’t about to turn them in, I do not trust a government who fears an armed populace.

You may wonder, or at least you should wonder, why all of a sudden we have a plethora of bills in Congress that would turn control over the Internet over to a group of people whose approval rating is just somewhat lower than Fidel Castro’s in Miami. The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate are ostensibly being crested to protect copyrighted material from being illegally shared. However, if these bills become law, the federal government, the same people who have an approval rating just a bit higher than leprous strippers,  would be able to shut down any and all internet sites at will.

If you think this is the same paranoia that we gun people have when someone sponsors a bill that would track gun owners in the same manner that sexual predators are tracked, think about how much power and influence the internet in general, and some sites in particular, had in the “Arab Spring” where decades old regimes fell in turn, and even those backed by billions and billions of US dollars were no match for cell phone videos posted on You Tube and real time information posted on Twitter.

When dealing with the American Congress you can always count on greed being a prime motivating factor. Fear runs a close second. The idea, the fear, that the American people might rise up and take away the power from those in Washington is the driving force behind these bills. This is nothing less than a preemptive strike to stop an American Spring. The people with the money want to keep the money, and to keep the money they have to own the federal government, and they do.

If you want to know who is in pay of the people really running the show you have only to look at who is getting the money to run for office. You cannot tell me that a man who stands to make four hundred thousand dollars a year isn’t beholding to someone out there when he spends tens of millions of dollars to become president.  Members of Congress make a lot less yet in national campaigns they spend enough money to cure poverty one hundred times over.

Now these same people, the people who clearly give a damn less about what the American people want, are on a power grab to gain control over the one medium we could possibly use to reach out to likeminded people and take this nation back from those who have bought it.

These acts will pass and if they do not pass then some other version of them will pass, and failing that, we will wake up one day and discover some amendment has been added to some existing law and no one told us that the freedoms we once enjoyed were out sourced to the rich and powerful, so they might better take care of them in the splendor such rights were meant to be enjoyed.

It is much later than you think. The time between being able to do something about this without violence and the time when the shooting begins is about the same time between the first protest in Egypt and the time when the first unarmed protestor was gunned down in public. The difference is the video of that event was broadcast worldwide. We will fight alone, in the dark, and the only scenes of the carnage will be those the government allows, protects, and broadcasts for their own purposes.

When the screens go black we will be isolated, cut off from the rest of the world, and no one will ever know what happened.  Those crazy gun people are about to be the only standing between us and 1984. You need to decide today what direction this thing takes, and you best be getting the message out now while you still can.

Exercising freedom is a lot easier than dying to get it back.

Take Action,

Monday, January 16, 2012

They Know Who Is Kind To Them

The Zombies Of Seminole County

Raymond sat in the holding cell of the Seminole County jail and thought about what to do next. Oh, this wasn’t the first time he had been in this cell, for sure. His first trip in was when he was fourteen and he had snuck into that Mexican’s house and stole a bunch of stuff. Of all the stupid ways to get caught… One of the radios the Mexican was using had an alarm clock on it and the damn thing went off right when the deputies got to his house. The Mexican worked two jobs and one of them started at three in the afternoon so the radio went off at two-thirty and as Raymond stood in the doorway of his mama’s house telling that fat old deputy he didn’t know a damn thing about any thieving done the radio started  blasting away some Mexican music. The deputies started calling him “Chica” after that and he hated that it caught on, but that was a long time ago. He had sat in this very same cell many times since then, wrote his name on the wall, come back a few months later to find they had painted over it, or not, but this time, Raymond thought, might just be the last time.

Raymond knew that one day it would catch up with him. He figured as long as he was stealing then that was less wrong than doing something that got people hurt. He never used a knife or a gun, never hit nobody, and he sure as hell wasn’t into beating up old people for their checks. The law seemed to split the difference, too. They treated him better than they did the mean folks. Hell, they called him up on his cell phone one day and told him to come in because that warehouse he hit had a video camera. “Got fried pork chops on Thursday, Chica.” And the food wasn’t half bad back then. Then the county had turned the jail over to a “Justice Center” run by some company up north and everything changed. The tore down most of the old jail and instead of cells they had these tiny rooms without enough space to turn around good. There was air conditioning but it was stale air that seemed sticky. The food was processed little blocks that all tasted the same and they gave to a big paper cup of water to drink instead of sweet tea. Who in the hell came up with that idea? Raymond thought it was their way to keep crime down and he had to admit it was working some. He worked harder now to stay out of jail than ever before, but he knew it would come back on him.

He was lucky, and he knew it. Jimmy and Po Boi had planned to rob a store and he was supposed to be the wheel man. He parked the car two blocks over in Bainbridge and he waited just like they had planned on. Then it sounded like a dove shoot and Raymond had run like hell. A thousand times over he had thanked God he had the sense not to take the car, because that belonged to Jimmy, and all Raymond had to do was stop running, think about it, and then walk back to where a crowd was gathering around the store. Jimmy lay in the middle of the parking lot bleeding out. Po Boi was inside with most of his head missing. The owner of the store was dead too, and the police assumed that the car was there when they made their escape and no one ever knew Raymond was there. But God knew. And Raymond thought one day God would do something with that knowing. He just never thought it would look anything like this.

The law seemed to hate some people for no reason. Tommy Jinks was busted for breaking into a jewelry store and they beat him to death for it. Raymond knew most of it was because rich people got more protection from cops than anybody else, but damn, that was harsh. Now this… Raymond tried to block out the noise but there was that fat assed deputy Hanson and that over the top dispatcher from out of town both trying to break into his cell, putting their arms through the bars trying to grab at him. They had been at it now for the better part of three days and things in the cell were being a mite weird past that.
The electricity had died the first day but the water still worked.  The holding cell where Raymond was still had one of the porcelain toilets with a tank and Raymond was never so happy in his life to have one of those. No power in that first day was bad enough, but then Hanson had stumbled through the door moaning and groaning at him. Raymond thought Hanson must have been in a damn car wreck because the man had one hell of a head injury, but that wasn’t it. That skinny boy from Blakely had been in the cell across the hallway and he got too close to the bars. Hanson grabbed him and started tearing him apart slowly. The dispatcher had come in and helped. Raymond screamed and hollered but that didn’t help any more than the screaming the Blakely Boy did. And that man did some screaming. He got away from him but the next day he looked a lot like they did. And now both Hanson and the dispatcher were trying to get into the cell with Raymond.

That was three days ago. Raymond flushed the toilet and the tank refilled halfway and stopped. How long could he live off that water? How much longer could Hanson and the dispatcher wave their arms through the bars and moan at him. For three days, day and night, that was all they did. Raymond tried to talk to them, plead with them, played the dozens with them, cursed them and ignored them but they stood there, day and night, with their arms sticking through the bars trying to get to him. The skinny boy from Blakely was doing it too, but they ignored him now. They all smelled like dead animals, and Raymond was sure they were dead, but there they were, trying to push through the steel bars.

All the new cells had electronic doors on them and Raymond wondered about the other guys who were locked up. What happened when the power went off? They had those new steel toilets that didn’t have a tank. Here in the middle of summer, with no air, how long would they last? Would they turn into…? Raymond wondered how many more there were. Was everybody like this now?  Raymond dipped the last of the water out with the paper cup and ignored the debris in the bottom. How much longer would he last? A day? Two or three at the most, maybe. Certainly not a week. What were his options? Lying in the rack waiting to die of thirst or being eaten alive and maybe becoming one of those things? Raymond looked away from the cell door but he couldn’t shut off the sounds.

At dawn the next day Raymond woke from a dream where he was in a river, floating on his back, and there was a noise, a moaning noise. He woke up and there was Hanson and the dispatcher, arms extended, faces pressed into the bars, moaning at him, arms going up and down, fingers reaching towards him. They never stopped, never gave up, and now, Raymond looked at the paper cup, there was no water left. His mouth was dry and he could feel the heat in the cell raising. The smell was getting worse. Pieces of Hanson dropped off and lay on the floor, stinking. The dispatcher’s face was rubbing off on the bars. The skinny boy from Blakely had popped part of his jaw off trying to press through the bars. Raymond sat on his bunk and realized tomorrow was going to be just like today, except he was going to be closer to being dead.

At noon the next day Raymond took a step towards Hanson. Hanson’s face was a mess, and Raymond had never seen anything like it. The man, or what was left of a man, had pressed his face so hard into the bars one of them was embedded into his cheek. There was no blood but a thick gooey slime than oozed like peanut butter stuck to the ceiling. Raymond remembered how in grade school they had all thrown their sandwiches up on the ceiling and counted as each piece of bread had fallen, food, oh God, food, just one of those back, please, just one. Raymond took another step towards Hanson’s outstretched hand and wondered how long it would take. A minute? What was worse; a minute with Hanson and the dispatcher or another day waiting to die? A minute wasn’t so bad.  He had gotten locked up in Dothan once and the first night in two of the larger inmates had gotten to him. That lasted a lot longer than a minute and when it was all over he was okay. It felt like hell during the fight but a week later it was like it never happened. No one knew. It would take a minute and then it would be over. There would be pain, and he knew he would scream, but it would be over. It would be over. No more thirst. No more stink. No more cell. God was punishing him now, but maybe this was His way of getting it all over with. Maybe this was hell. In one more minute it would be over with and whatever came after this would be not as bad as this.

Raymond stepped towards Hanson but his instincts took over and he ducked at the last second but it was too late. Hanson grabbed his neck, and pulled him close to the bars and Raymond did scream as Hanson’s teeth sunk deep into his flesh. He flailed and squirmed but Hanson bit him again, and again, and …Raymond broke free. Raymond leaped away but he was bleeding, and the blood seemed to excite Hanson and the dispatcher. The both got louder and louder. The boy from Blakely chimed in. Raymond put his hand to his neck and felt his blood flowing. He put part of his bed sheet on the wound and passed out.

When Raymond came to he was hungry. Both Hanson and the dispatcher were gone, but he was starving. He got up and stumbled to the cell door but he couldn’t remember how it worked. The door. It did something. What did the door do? He had to get out, get help, but the things in his mind were getting off the bus, one by one. Where was he? He was in the Seminole County Jail. His name was Raymond Richards. He repeated that time and again, but his voice began to slur. No more talking. My name is… You know your name, say it out loud. Raymond moaned and realized his name had left. No, not that. The robbery. Yes, it was still there. His mother, yes, no, wait, that was his grandmother, no, that was…He was hungry. The door. He pushed against it with his body but it didn’t move. Would it? He was hungry. Raymond felt his thoughts fleeing from his brain like water out of a cup with holes in it. No, keep it together man, Raymond thought, but he was hungry. Try to think. Where did those other two go? How was he supposed to get out of here he was hungry. Raymond tried to remember the store robbery and discovered it was still there. He had been there with Po Boi and there was… Raymond couldn’t remember. He was hungry. There had been shooting, where had there been shooting? What was he thinking about? Raymond discovered he had pushed his face against the bars but it didn’t matter because there was food somewhere outside and pushing… Raymond felt his mind flash with terror as it fought to stay alive and for a second, a fleeing moment, he had clarity but then it was gone. He was hungry. Raymond pushed against the cell door and knew nothing else.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Saving Money: DIY Laundry Detergent

Okay, when someone offers to save me some money, I’m thinking someone is out to make some money off me trying to save money. Enter  peanutbuttermacrame run by Elizabeth Schartok. She posted the following recipe.

1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz) found in the detergent isle
1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg) found in the cooking isle
1  box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz) found in the detergent isle
3 bars of Fels-naptha soap, found in the detergent isle
2 small containers of oxyclean or store brand oxyclean (try to get about 3.5 lbs total (1.58 kg)) found in the detergent isle.*(optional, see below)

Now at this point we can take into consideration one of two possibilities. One, Elizabeth is in the pay of the international Fels-naptha consortium, and is collection a very healthy kick back on every bar she sells, or we can consider Elizabeth might be a mother of two young children, and an expert seamstress and by those virtues an excellent source of information.

I’ll give you a couple of minutes to consider those possibilities.

So away I went.

I looked n a few places, got come blank stares for the washing soda and then hit a four for four pay dirt, no pun intended, and for all the needed ingredients in one place for less than ten bucks. That is less than ten bucks. You might want to consider that fact.

At this point, if you’re feeling like a pawn of the international Fels-naptha consortium, you might want to just bail out and go out and buy the liquid mostly water expensive stuff, or the powered that foams stuff that costs more money.

It took a while to grate all the bar soap up, yes, but I experimented with how well it dissolved in water and it did, totally.

My first victim was the mutt blanket of extreme dog smell. It came out clean and fresh smelling!

All in all, either you want to save money and you’ll give this a shot, or you refuse to be a pawn of the international Fels-naptha consortium and you’ll keep paying for water and lemon freshened scent.

Take Care,

Dogs Against Romney

The Official Site of Dogs Against Romney(TM). Founded June 2007. Hi, I'm Rusty. Mitt Romney is mean to dogs. Help me get my message out.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

The War Of Northern Aggression

The argument that the War Of Northern Aggression was not based on the issue of slavery is an argument so weak as to not to be considered by anyone who has studied history, but then again, those who make this argument are very rarely historians. I’ve listened to this argument all of my life, having lived in The South during that time, and I’ve never once heard anything that dissuaded me from my conviction that the one single driving issue for the war was slavery. Without that issue there would have been no war.
My case for this is simply put; the rich land owners in The South wanted to remain rich. They cared not at all of the suffering of the slaves and they cared even less about the overpowering and grinding poverty of poor whites that made up the vast majority of the population. Yet the rich people sold the idea of succession to the poor, and therefore sold the war to them. It was a matter of regional integrity and cultural purity, in which they wrapped the war in quite prettily, and that illusion has yet to be dispelled even over one hundred and fifty years since it was spawned. There are still poor white people who believe The South is a homeland once taken away from them, and they cannot and will not believe that war freed their ancestors from a fate just slightly less worse than that of slaves.

When I have any sort of discussion of this issue with Southerners the first thing I do is ask them why the Confederate Constitution was set up the way it was. Most have no idea such a document existed at all, and I then ask them how do they know the reasons behind succession if they have no idea who wrote and planned how The South would exist if they have never read the governing articles which would define how the Confederacy would operate? Who wrote it? Who were the representatives from the individual states who contributed to it? What did it have to say about the issue of slavery?

Slavery was illegal in most part of the world by then and most European countries had long since banned the practice. In one of the most telling political concessions in the Confederate Constitution is the banning of the importation of slaves from Africa. Clearly, the people who owned slaves did not care about the slaves or where they came from, but this article was meant to assuage the European powers that might become very important allies against the United States. Slavery would not only define the war but it would also define the diplomacy. The Confederation, willing to fight a war to keep slavery intact, was from birth forced to take a step away from it.

Documents from the era of the War Of Northern Aggression are of two sorts. The first is the correspondence from the soldiers in the field which are laced with patriotic fervor. The second is from those who are seeing the war far from the front. The men who started this war, the Confederates who seek the dissolution of the Union speak only in terms of economics. Riches and racism drive their part in this, and they care nothing at all about who dies to preserve their plantations. Greed, pure and simple, is the reason for this war. Only those men who money could afford to start the war and money is why they started it. Racism is their way of justifying keeping other human beings in bondage and it is an institution that still exists today, for very much the same reasons. Yet no matter the outcome of the war the poor whites were going to be handed a life pretty much the same. They would remain poor. They would remain under educated. They would remain convinced it was poor blacks who were making a living off of their sweat regardless of the evidence that it was rick white people who were living quite well off of everyone else. There is still very much of this mindset going on, hence this conversation.

Racism in The South is not the same as regional identity.  More than any other part of this nation, The South is more clearly defined by a culture, an accent, and a sense of commonality. In some ways this is a good thing but there are still some very self-destructive behaviors we cling to in each generation. We cannot make peace with the rest of the world, the United States, or ourselves as long as we deny the root cause of the War Of Northern Aggression to be slavery. This is not to say that we cannot be proud that we were once a nation. This is not to say that we cannot define who we are by where we live. But the idea that the people who lived at Tara are “Our people” is ludicrous and  it is wrong. Those were the people who sold us the idea the war would keep us together when it fact that war, had it been won, would have ensured the poor would remain forever poor.

Most poor whites today who fly the Confederate battle flag have no idea why that is a symbol of everything that is wrong with The South. To them, it is the flag of a nation born of a people who rose up against the Federal government bent on dominating each state in turn. You cannot blame them for their distrust of the Federal government, but at the same time their ignorance of history is truly profound. At the end of the day those who fly that flag are either racists who wish to turn the clock back far enough so they can be poor white trash in a world of black slavery, or they are those who embrace their own willful ignorance, in a world where they, and their children, are left in a past that never existed.

Take Care,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Spiders and The Rain and The Noise

It hasn’t rained here on a regular basis for so long now I have forgotten what it was like. The rain used to “set in” and there would be a light gentle rain for days on in. You could count on the places that were supposed to have water to have water, and sometimes the places that were not supposed to have water did anyway. It flooded here in 2002 and 2003 and I wondered if I would ever see all of my backyard again, and I wondered if I would ever come home to find Bert dry. Bert would get into water that was nearly over his head and then roll over on his back and his feet would stick out of the water as he rolled around. That dog loves water like no animal I have ever seen who didn’t have a set of gills hung on him.
The mosquitoes were bad one year here, the first year I was here, 2001 and they have not been very bad since. 2001 brought a flock of “crunchy” mosquitoes that made a noise when they were hit. Crunch! There were big black bustards with white stripes on their legs.  It wasn’t safe to go outside even in daylight without some repellant of a baseball bat. I do not know what changed, but I don’t have the mosquito problem many people in this area have. I don’t spray for pests and I won’t. I keep spiders and let anything that slightly resembles a dragonfly live. I don’t have the problems with roaches that other people have. People tell me the giant roaches that infest nearly every house not sprayed and some that are sprayed, can’t be safe using all natural methods, like spiders, and they have a good point in that one of the full sized adults is likely not going to get tangled in a web. But they are short lived creatures and they are born very small. My spiders feast on the small. The lizards and frogs near the door keep unwanted visitors at bay there. All in all, nothing I do not want to live here will not live here. Just like in nature, where there is a balance as far as how many of one species can survive in a location, my house supports a few more spiders than you might find somewhere else because they are safe here. Conversely, roaches are on the hit list as well as the menu.

Two years in a row I have stepped on a Cottonmouth, starting in 2010. Both were my fault, both were in places the snakes should have been, and both times I did not get bit. Still, even though I am totally at peace with these animals, I suspect they are not with me and I have just been very lucky. This is not some movie where I can nudge pit vipers out of my path with my bare toes and a soft word. I suspect that I’m either going to get bit or I am going to start doing things to keep from being bit. I may have to start carrying a flashlight at night when I walk barefooted.

Sam, the Happy Hound and Mid-Mutt, kills things, but he is slowing down. I’m certain Lucas can handle a bite from a small snake but I haven’t stepped on a small snake yet. But the Loki Mutt isn’t some purse carried toy dog who is fed downers and kept in a crate. This is a strong willed hunting dog who doesn’t show much fear of wildlife at all. Whatever else you may believe, the clash between dogs and venomous snakes usually winds with a dead snake and an unscathed dog. Toss in the fact that Sam has trained this animal and the odds are tilted dramatically. Sam is a surgeon, precise and neat. He kills without sound or mess, breaking the neck of an armadillo in seconds and walking away without any hint of pleasure. This is business, nothing more and nothing less. Sam is a professional hunter and doesn’t play with his quarry. Bert is a loud brawler and Lucas hunts more like Bert, but he has picked up Sam’s sense of dedication. No, I’m not much worried about a dog getting snakebit, but I do allow that it might happen, and I have to live with it.

I could live another way and one day I might have to do exactly that. Even a smallish snake could kill Bert outright, as old and feeble as he is. Bert has always been more of a fighter than a hunter, taking position inside Sam’s stalk to bring down prey. It’s worked really well for over a decade now, and nothing these two ever chased walked away from it. I didn’t train them to do it, but I did allow it, and I did because they spend more time alone with one another than they do with me here. I have to trust them to do whatever it is they do, and it is whatever it is. Sam, as I pointed out, kills passionlessly. To him it is not a game or a sport. Bert, on the other paw, is a chomper and he wades in snarling and snapping. His neck is protected by thick fur and his face sort of pushes forward as to protect his eyes. Bert all squinty eyes at you is Bert about to bite you. It is the same as hearing the sound of a gun cocking and whatever else you may believe, when Bert horripilates and his eyes become narrow slits, there is going to be some blood.

I miss the rain. I wish it would flood one more time so Bert could play every day in the water. I could come home and despair at how bad he smelled and have to towel him off three times a day. I would wash a load of towels a day and the house would smell doggy.

But it hasn’t rained like that in years, and Bert doesn’t have years left.

Take Care,