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Over the River and Through the Woods (2018)

Giving Thanks, 2018

And then the rains came to Paradise and in the valley below the ridge, my mother and I went to Thanksgiving at my brother’s home.

It was a soaking rain; one that washed the heavy and grimed coats of the fire crews closing the line on the Camp Fire. It was a soft pelting rain that soaked the gray flecks of ash off the leaves that remained in the trees and then washed the leaves out of the trees. It was a cold rain and it made for a miserable Thanksgiving. We all loved it. You stood outside in this drenching rain and raised your face towards heaven and felt it fall on you. It was a rain that smelled of smoke.

My mother and I left early to drive to my brother’s home in Grass Valley. At 90 minutes it is at the outward edge of my mother’s travel radius, but this one is worth it and we are in no position, jammed into her apartment, to attempt to have it in Chico.

Our route goes down Highway 99 and then east towards where the Camp Fire grinds forests in its bright fangs, but picks up Highway 70 outside of Oroville. Then it is down that dangerous two-lane freeway to “The Shortcut” and then the climb up to Grass Valley; another town built in the mountains inside a pine forest.

Thanksgiving marks the second time my mother has been out into the smoke from Paradise. The first was the day or so before when she insisted on going shopping for “something red, some red top to go with my red boots.” She’s had her almost magical pair of red boots for decades and they’ve become a kind of signal that wherever she wears them is an official feast or festival. And so we went downtown with masks on to shop. For my mother at 104, a little smoke is not going to keep her from making a fashion statement… or Thanksgiving with her family.

South of Chico about nine miles we entered the Burned Zone. This was where the fire threatened Highway 99 on the first night and even managed to jump it but was then turned back. As we flow along at highway speeds the land on the west side has dry brindle grass covering the earth, on the east side the burned char from the fire and the backfires stretch over the long flatlands where cattle would graze, and then over the low hills and far away. Patches of brindle crop up here and there but it is mostly a scene of a black dank earth. It goes on over the low hills and higher ridges and then out of sight. It seems limitless. It smells of the pit. [continue reading…]

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Strange Daze: Candles for Kyle

God bless you, Bud. You’re welcome to hang out and unwind at my Van Down By the River any time. | Barnhardt

Kyle, this is FOREVER your anthem. Not bad, son. Not bad. We’re all proud of you. Now, live a life of virtue. Keep it up. In fact, build on it. Keep advancing in virtue. Never succumb to the culture that tried to destroy you.

[Or this can be your anthem and the person that you use to teach you drumming.]

Raconteur Report: Settle Down  And when the SOP in any future riot anywhere in the country is that the looters, vandals, and arsonists therein will be shot on sight until the nonsense ends, and en masse if necessary, then you might begin to think you had a functional country again, with its collective head screwed on straight. [continue reading…]

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Cruising Off Baja


“A life on the ocean waves,
A home on the rolling deep…”

— Sea Shanty

In travel I once thought there were only three levels of tedium that overtake one between departure to destination. 1) If you go by car, your tedium level is light. You have the power to interrupt your journey at any point as well as a changing view and a task, driving, for diversion. 2) Travel by rail or bus introduces you to the second level of tedium when only scheduled stops enable you to break the journey, but the scenery remains in the middle distance as a diversion. 3) Should you go by air, your despair and terror are lessened by the knowledge that, except for extreme distances, your powerlessness and lack of view will at least last no more than a day.

The three levels of tedium. Each more or less equal to the others and each part of what you pay for wanting to indulge in the mindlessness of modern travel. But I have a fourth level and this level contains all the horrors of travel plus the horrors of actually being there. This is a level of tedium previously unexplored by me, but rumored to exist by sensible travelers who have gone and returned to tell the tale. I should have believed them but, like the fool I have always been, I had to experience it myself. It isn”t too soon to send out a warning in the hopes that there are others out there who will not be the fool I was; who will turn back before committing themselves to the constantly renewing fresh hell on the ocean waves.

But should you have a taste for tedium, should boredom be like mother”s milk and daily bread (lots of it) to you, you will be surfeited by this otherwise antiquated mode of travel. Indeed, for sheer, mind obliterating tedium; for the kind of vacancy induced only by event horizons with no events and fewer horizons; for a feeling that arises in no experience other than incarceration, there is nothing that can beat the tedium induced by that modern masterpiece of torpor, stupor and pointlessness, the Cruise Ship.

“The sane reaction to a cruise would be to throw yourself off the ship in the hopes that the props would convert you to chum before the sharks found you.”

 

This marvel of contemporary capitalism — a hotel that takes its patrons far out of reach of any competition — has no peer when it comes to simultaneously suspending and extending time. At sea, the ship’s clock is all there is and its pendulum pulses exceedingly slow. After a day or so, you exist in this world with either way too much time or outside of time altogether. Either way the first thing to leave your mind and judgment is your mind and judgment. This is hardly noticed by most since management has arranged for a host of activities so mindless that you will be convinced for days that you are actually in possession not only of your mind, but in your right one at that. It is only when the credit card bills arrive long after you are at home that you will realize what you have done to yourself.

The sane reaction to a cruise, once one has trapped oneself on board and has perceived exactly what sort of fresh and renewing hell one is in, would be to wait until midnight and throw yourself off the ship in the hopes that the props would convert you to chum before the sharks found you.

But since you are obviously so insane as to actually get on the cruise ship in the first place, this blissful option is closed to you. Besides, the small pattern of looping dots on the map in the main lounge that lays out your trip to nowhere gives you the hope that, when all the little red dots have changed to green, you will be released and returned to life. Since the ship only moves at a piddling four dots per day, and since the dots are many, you try not to peek too often lest despair absorb you and you hear the chimes of the starboard rail at midnight.

Still, in the brief moments of lucidity that come between meals and naps, an experience aboard a cruise ship is not without its uses. It can, properly considered, instruct you in the deeper meanings of your foolishness. Indeed, it can cause you to re-examine attitudes towards life issues you previously thought of as resolved. Capital punishment Vs. life imprisonment comes to mind at this moment.

[continue reading…]

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Noted in Passing: Smoke ’em if you got ’em

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“Every journalist writes his own obituary.”

On that November day in 1963, I was at the sylvan campus of the University of California at Davis. I was meeting with my drama teacher and director about Shakespeare’s Richard II a play we were about to put on and one in which I had a small role. We were discussing how to block the final scene of the play when through the open window we caught a rising chorus of alarm and weeping. On the quad across the way, a group of students was forming a circle around the window into the student union where a television displayed Walter Cronkite telling the nation that its president had been shot in the head.

Later that week the assassin was killed. Later that week there would be a funeral in Washington DC. Later that week we postponed the play’s opening but not the rehearsals.

Enter EXTON, with persons bearing a coffin

EXTON: Great king, within this coffin I present
Thy buried fear: herein all breathless lies
The mightiest of thy greatest enemies,
Richard of Bordeaux, by me hither brought.

HENRY BOLINGBROKE: Exton, I thank thee not; for thou hast wrought
A deed of slander with thy fatal hand
Upon my head and all this famous land.

EXTON: From your own mouth, my lord, did I this deed.

HENRY BOLINGBROKE: They love not poison that do poison need,
Nor do I thee: though I did wish him dead,
I hate the murderer, love him murdered.
The guilt of conscience take thou for thy labour,
But neither my good word nor princely favour:
With Cain go wander through shades of night,
And never show thy head by day nor light.
Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe,
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow:
Come, mourn with me for that I do lament,
And put on sullen black incontinent:
I’ll make a voyage to the Holy Land,
To wash this blood off from my guilty hand:
March sadly after; grace my mournings here;
In weeping after this untimely bier.

Exeunt

SCENE VI. Windsor castle.

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Old (and far too festopodulent )Friend on the Phone last Friday: “I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take these lying fucks. I’ve been reading four newspapers a day for decades and it has gotten to such a level of lying I can’t take it. And the fucking tube is just a cathedral of worms and lies. I can’t watch them for a second anymore. It’s like watching worms move in their mouths. I gotta give it up. I try to be unbiased or at least look at all sides but all sides now are all lies. It’s a waste of life. I can’t do it. Why are all these “news sources” the way that they are? Why?”

Me (talking him down from the ledge on the cliff above his slough of respond): They can’t help themselves at this point. They are sick with a sickness bred in the bone.

Which is when I found this on an old archive shelf and brought it back into the light…

“If you tell someone they have a short attention span often enough, they might believe you enough to get one, but then they’ll forget what channel you’re on.” — TV producer, Fox News, 2002

[Editor’s Note: This is a test. A long test. If you can’t read all of this you may be infected by media-induced ADD / HD. Seek professional help.]

The Short Attention Spans of Media Professionals Mean a Hyperactive Headline Glut for You

RECENTLY I BECAME ACQUAINTED with a young boy, just turned nine. He’s a brilliant and happy kid, but he has a problem with cleaning up and organizing his room. It isn’t that he can’t do it, he simply has to be told about every five minutes to continue the process. In the course of picking things up to put away he discovers anew their potential to fascinate him.

The Gameboy? “Oh, here’s where I saved that last stage of Turoc. Let’s see if I can get the flame-thrower and…”

Any one of the 3,000 + Lego units? “Gee, I never did get the moon base hemi-dome set up, just let me put these 400 blocks in place and…” Books? “Sure thing and, hey, did Horton ever hatch that egg…”

On it goes until, after the sixth or seventh cajoling instruction, a path has been cleared for the vacuum cleaner. After which, he promptly begins taking everything he has put away out and strews it about the floor once again.

Today’s pop psychologists, addlepated educators and the marketing departments of large drug companies are hard at work trying to convince me children who behave like this have “Attention Deficit Disorder” or ADD. But I know enough to know it is the companies who are obsessed, confused and greedy in about that order.

What this young boy suffers from is no more than being a normal, heedless and all around great nine-year-old boy. He doesn’t have ADD anymore than I have an elephant chained in my back yard. (Yes, I just checked.) What he does have is a smart child’s ability to multi-task beyond a normal adult’s capacity.

As adults we are often guilty of projecting our frailties onto the young. We forget that they are more nimble in all things than we are, and are all too eager in this age of instant advice on any problem to ascribe to the young a malady confined to the mature. In this case, it is our media who suffer from this self-induced malady.

No section of our society exemplifies ADD more than Big Media whose efforts in spreading fear, uncertainty, doubt, and confusion go forward daily with no signs of stopping and less than zero signs of shame.

Big Media is happy to spread the myth of ADD / HD (Attention Deficit Disorder / Hyperactivity Disorder) affliction. In doing so they point only at the young. They are happy to do it because, in a very real way, it protects them from being seen as the single profession in which ADD / HD is a virus that threatens the lives and happiness of millions.

For centuries it has been unfashionable in the West to kill the messenger. This convention, along with so many others in the post 9/11 world, may have to be reconsidered; especially if the messenger’s message is brain death by mind-numbing media mulch.

The recent collective media hallucinations, aka “RoosianCollusionObstruction”,” underscore the fact that ADD/HD has infested Big Media.

It is not true that all the people working in the media are biased towards wanting the United States to fail all the time and everywhere. No, the terrible truth is that nearly 100 percent of media professionals are infected to the marrow of their bones with ADD / HD. And not just the “stars” but the whole pack of them, root and branch, right down to Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter, fresh from the laughable “Journalism Schools”.

The Disease and the Afflicted

Before getting down to cases, let’s look at the symptoms (with examples) of ADD/HD.

AD/HD predominately inattentive type: (AD/HD-I)

Fails to give close attention to details: Reuters
Has difficulty sustaining attention: National Public Radio.
Does not appear to listen: Ann Coulter
Struggles to follow through on instructions: Colbert
Has difficulty with organization: Dan Rather
Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort: Morning Joe
Loses things: The BBC
Is easily distracted: Foreign Press Corp in War Zone once checked into comfy hotels.
Is forgetful in daily activities: Fact-checkers across the media spectrum

AD/HD predominately hyperactive-impulsive type: (AD/HD-HI)

Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair: Chris Matthews
Has difficulty remaining seated: Geraldo
Runs about or climbs excessively: Acosta
Difficulty engaging in activities quietly: Fox News
Acts as if driven by a motor: The New York Times
Talks excessively: Maddow
Blurts out answers before questions have been completed: CNN
Difficulty waiting or taking turns: CNN
Interrupts or intrudes upon others: CNN in a trifecta.

AD/HD combined type: (AD/HD-C)

Individual meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria:
ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, NYT, LAT, WAPO, TIME NEWSWEEK, etc. and so forth ad nauseum.

As Above, So Below

These examples are only well-known metastasizing tumors of the American Media Entity (AME). What is true for the stars above is also true for all those members of AME that labor in the mud below. They have all been infected with ADD/HD and few are seeking to get well.  Ambition in the media is so vicious because the stakes are so vacuous.

MEDIA = Jobs for the Hard-Core Unemployable

Media types are, by heredity and training, unemployable in any other industry you can think of except, perhaps, sanitation, politics, and student aide in an ethnic studies department. It takes a special kind of team to design a program that requires the blathering head to say: “In AFGHANISTAN today, yet another innocent, much-loved Afghan CHILD was shot in the head by an evil member of the TALIBAN! Is this another step into the deepening quagmire of WHITE SUPREMACY? We’ll interview the CHILD’S  weeping grandmother in just a few minutes. But right now, “Is fast food fat food IF IT IS SERVED BY DONALD J. TRUMP!?” [continue reading…]

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Intelligent Design

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. — Job 38:4-5

Whose Will decreed This slash of sea
Would frame This sun in gleams of green?
What Plan determines stone’s decline,
Or shapes in stars, or shadow’s sheen,

Or that we track, as clever beasts,
The passing haze of comet’s fall,
And made this glaze of Thought on flesh
That sees the need of Plan at all?

I know, I know… no Plan at all
Is thought by some to be the plan,
And yet what is this sheen on thought
That seeks to measure more than man?

Look out beyond the far Deep Field,
Beyond the limits of our sight.
It cannot be that All that is,
Is only night on deeper night.

But if that should be All that is,
And All as purposeless as stones,
The Heart still sings the body’s chants,
And moves the Light within the bones. [continue reading…]

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You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel 
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?  

There have been many circles in my life,  but I did not expect this particular boomer anthem to ever again become as personal as it was when I was 25. And yet, here I am again half a century later at 75. But “changed, changed utterly.”

And now I am here.

Here?

What, today is here? Where is Here in this Now?

Here is not a house but a warm and comfortable apartment that is not spacious but neither is it confining. It’s a far cry from the house in Paradise that is now just plowed under and terraformed. It’s not the small bungalow in Seattle with the playground across the street. The view from the apartment is some redwood branches that screen my small terrace from the neighbor’s terrace some five yards opposite. It is not at all the view from the split level house on the hill above Laguna Beach where I could glance out the wall of windows to the sea and Catalina Island some twenty miles out.

I did not intend to be here. Here was never part of the plan. At least not my plan.

Then again I am not at all sure there was a plan and, even if there had been a plan, I’m not at all sure I was following it. That’s likely the case since, looking back, all the important events in my life seemed to just happen, seemed as if I was walking backward in a dark tunnel that every so often had an opening that looked out on the world; on the world as that it is now — as it always seemed to be — just another day in Plato’s cave. Days we somehow just… 

…. letting the daze go by.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”
And you may ask yourself, “Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful house”
And you may tell yourself, “This is not my beautiful wife”

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Casey Klahn writing in a comment onThank God summarizes:

It would be good to turn the narrative around to: democrats rioted all across America in 2020 and drove a wedge into the population, essentially beginning CWII.

The whole story is dizzying. Imagine trying to summarize this irredeemable shitshow to your college students 50 years hence, or to your great-grandchildren.

DC got unmanageable by the people, and this was called the Deep State. It began to take on aspects of Mao’s China, Lenin’s Soviet Union, Marxism, and Fascism, but also to become a political entity in itself, characterized by intensive, unelected bureaucracy and criminal politicians.

Trump was elected as a turn-around CEO, kicked ass and took names, and generally got the economy roaring and almost every war lowered below the boiling point: he never got the US involved in any new wars, and refused to escalate conflicts that he inherited. He turned the border crisis around and threatened the Deep State with his policies and successes.

The Deep State, along with a corrupt media, went full-time to oppose Trump, to the extent that they manufactured a health crisis out of a virus that came from China shrouded in mystery. Although it was serious to have China Flu, the reaction to the flu was so over the top that governments from mayors and governors, and bureaucracies such as the CDC, the medical community, and large businesses, all colluded to lock-down society. People weren’t allowed to work and travel was restricted, and yet the numbers of sick and dead were not dramatically high, and the CDC and the medical community lied and fudged the numbers to include those who died of other causes but may’ve had Covid as well.

The death of reliable news created panic among the citizenry, and to the point where people couldn’t trust the government or govt. agencies. Distrust for the FBI, the CDC, and Congress was sky high, and in the midst of the epidemic lockdowns, the democrat party began sending armed militias into the streets to foment race riots. All of this happened in order to cover for the theft of the 2020 presidential election and to prevent Trump from being reelected.

Worries about personal safety and Constitutional rights and privileges were exacerbated by media and political gas-lighting of the people. People began to believe that they were entering into a time of a new Civil War.

In an unusual, and yet easily recognizable pattern of corruption, presidential election-theft, the very popular Donald Trump was unseated and a corrupt and inept old and established politician was put in office using a mixture of established election fraud and a new, computerized form of theft in which vote numbers were switched, en masse, to show a win for Joe Biden, who essentially did not even campaign, using the excuse of the epidemic and of his frailty.

In a dramatic and frightening move, the political and bureaucratic occupants of Washington DC fortified and occupied the national capital using a large force of national guardsmen to seal off a “green zone” from imaginary rioters. In the chaotic time between the vote and the inauguration of the fake president, the FBI coordinated a pretend riot and a politically theatric occupation of the capitol during the counting of electoral college votes in which 5 or 5 key state’s votes were accepted although they had been, following the same pattern, switched from Trump to Biden in the dead of night.

This had all the marks of a Color revolution, which is a type of intelligence service (CIA or NKVD or Stasi) operation that generates unrest and political violence to overthrow a government.

These times also resembled closely the cultural and October revolutions that brought the Russian and Chinese communist take-overs.

In America, and also much of the world, similar events happened that had happened under 20th Century totalitarian states; shipping was mysteriously stopped at West Coast ports, and also at ports around the world, energy was involved in artificial crises that created high prices and shortages, schools were a bizarre place for Soviet-style indoctrination and if parents tried to interfere with the state’s plans, they were crushed by state threats and investigatory abuse.

The economy went from being robust under Trump, to crisis mode almost overnight. Food and fuel shortages, false lockdowns for invented health reasons, overbearing vaccine mandates, a politically motivated emptying-out of the otherwise apolitical military based on political witch-hunts and vaccine mandates all swept through the country like a maelstrom.

The only thing creating friction or resistance to the absolute tyrannical overthrow by Marxist and Fascist-style politicians, big technology and a corrupt media, and an unelected bureaucracy, was the unusual constitution of the United States, and the empowered citizenry of the US. Although their constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of the press, freedom from unusual legal overreach, and most importantly the freedom to own and use firearms, were under heavy attack, these rights were enshrined as law and the people made use of them as best they could.

In particular, the people were an army unto themselves, and so well-armed that the corrupt totalitarians feared them, and held memories of how the patriots who beat the most powerful nations on Earth in wars including the Revolutionary War, and the two World Wars, and also who fought a bloody civil war, fought like hell-unleashed and would not tolerate a loss of their liberties.

This was the lead-up to Civil War II…

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That was refreshing but now (just when you thought it was safe)… Ghost Riders of the Apocalypse.

And then there are those for whom nothing, NOTHING!, is sacred… [continue reading…]

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Rioters Flee In Terror As Kyle Rittenhouse Emerges From Courthouse With AR-15 |

Rittenhouse then appeared to descend the courthouse steps in slow motion, surrounded by a flock of doves and a heavenly golden light. At the terrifying sight, hundreds of Antifa fairies and murderous pedophiles shrieked in terror like a den of goblins, crawling into various holes and cracks in the earth. “Waaaaaaaaa!” Cried the prosecuting attorneys, knowing their career was over forever. “We’re ruined! Ruined by the unstoppable power of Kyle Rittenhouse!”

Sources say that once Rittenhouse has completed his task of purging the land of evil and wickedness, he will return home to his mother, who confirmed he is grounded for a week.

The Swamp: 1920 | Unfortunately, the bookstore was closed permanently early this year, and one now has to rely on the website, which is not such a great experience.

Down Under Down Under: Rapid Antigen Tests now available in Australian supermarkets People using the rapid antigen anal tests will be able to do so from home and will need to conduct an anal swab before placing the cotton bud into a chemical solution that will display the results within 10-15 minutes.

Rittenhouse was (and is) the designated prey of psychopathic wolves Politics sets the stage, psychopaths take advantage of the situation, and then politicians use the psychopaths to further their own ends, in a macabre dance. This is the mark of many totalitarian regimes, by the way (perhaps another post for another day): the use of psychopaths and/or sociopaths to meet certain nefarious ends.

People fight, and kill, when they have to, and it requires overcoming nothing but mentally flipping the switch in the head saying “It’s okay to do this” at a given moment. Like the national use of nuclear weapons, we have built-in safeties. But anyone who thinks that either bullets or missiles won’t fly at the appropriate time, because “good” people are too hesitant to do it, is going to die with one helluva surprised look on their face. [continue reading…]

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Thank God

Verdict: Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty on All Charges

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Oh, the last time I saw Paris in the streets, in the rain
And as I walk along the boulevards with you, once again

I saw you standing with the wind and the rain in your face
And you were thinking ’bout the wisdom of the leaves and their grace
When the leaves come falling down
In September when the leaves, come falling down

And at night the moon is shining on a clear, cloudless sky
And when the evening shadows fall I’ll be there by your side
When the leaves come falling down
In September when the leaves, come falling down [continue reading…]

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The Pleasures of Merely Circulating


The garden flew round with the angel,
The angel flew round with the cloud.
And the clouds flew round and the clouds flew round
And the clouds flew round with the clouds.

Wallace Stevens

A clear day and a long road running south out of Nelson in British Columbia towards the US border with autumn closing in. Lakes loom on the left embraced by the forested mountains that rise up displaying more greens than can be counted. The air, as it slips by the window, is crisp even in late August. Somewhere up past the first two ranges of mountains, snow lingers. It’s a perfect day and the road goes on forever.

We come over a rise in my red Mercedes 560 SEL and see curling out before us between the forests a rolling S-curve of smooth asphalt arcing down the valley and then up and over the hill far beyond and gone. My passenger, skilled in racing very large motorcycles very well, looks at it and says, “That’s the road motorcyclists dream of. Perfectly banked and perfectly curved with a long, long sight line and no oncoming traffic. Give it the gas.”

I nod and give it the gas. The turbocharger kicks in. The car leaps forward with a growl. The forest outside becomes a green blur. We sweep down and around, up and over the hill.

We pin the speedometer.

And we’re gone.

I pity the future for a lot of reasons, but I really pity that future that will no longer be able to know the pure pleasures of personal speed. As Jack Kerouac knew,

“Man, you gotta go.”

Say what you like about our poor beaten-down gas guzzlers, they’ve given us over a century of thrills for everyman.

I pity that future that won’t ever experience the sweet feeling of motoring in a vehicle with a large internal-combustion engine running on heavy fuel. A vehicle with a glutton’s diet of pure petrochemical byproducts. A car that turns the sunshine that fell to Earth on some antediluvian day 500 million summers gone into a surge of pure speed on this fine August afternoon.

I pity my descendants who will never be able to look out at some sweeping mountain road, perfectly curved, perfectly banked, with no oncoming traffic and just “Give it the gas.”

“Give it the photons” just doesn’t have the same cachet.

I don’t care if my liver is hanging by a thread
Don’t care if my doctor says I ought to be dead
When my ugly big car won’t climb this hill
I’ll write a suicide note on a hundred dollar bill

‘Cause if you wanna run cool
If you wanna run cool
Yes if you wanna run cool
You got to run on heavy, heavy fuel

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Saving Escudo

In a time long ago, when my first marriage was fresh and new,  I lived in a small villa along the coast of the Algarve in Portugal.

At the end of the dirt road that ran down to the lighthouse, my rooftop terrace looked out across the straits towards Casablanca on the North African coast.   

On very clear mornings — or nights of the full moon — I would imagine I could make out the far edge of Africa but that was never true. The life of my wife and myself there was simple and romantic. We worked at writing and painting and at swimming and fishing. There was no electricity and our lights were kerosene lanterns. There was no running water and we drew what we needed from a vast cistern next to the house that collected the rains; a cistern that saved all the rainwater that fell on the Algarve; that fell on this semi-arid band of sand and stone carved deep with grottos and enhanced by endless small pocket beaches each with its own surfside bar.

What supplies we needed came from the village at the Pria de Carvoeiro about two miles from the villa. We’d go too and from the parking plaza at the sand’s edge in a clapped out old Peugeot that would see us through all of Europe. In the village you could buy two kinds of cheese, young or old. You could take your pick of fish carried up from the boats that had caught them the night before. If you wanted (really wanted) beef you might have to ask the town butcher to brush the coat of flies off the carcass in his window. There was a fine crusted loaf of bread to be had as well as any vegetable or fruit you could want as long as it was in season and raised within five miles of the village. There were three kinds of wine, red, white, and Vino Verde (light green and everywhere). If you wanted a cake you asked Casilda.

Casilda was from peasant stock; a woman who’d grown strong and stolid in the soil of the Algarve. Casilda was as blunt as she was beautiful. Her skin was mahogany. She was of the pear persuasion and had no formal education beyond rudimentary reading and writing. She had six children at the farm she shared with her family and her husband’s family. Her husband was — as so many men of Portugal’s Algarve had been since the dawn of the Age of Exploration — a sailor. Now her husband sailed away for months on the large Portuguese ships that fished for cod in the far northern seas. Those seas frightened Casilda and her prayers to God to spare her husband in any storms were part of the faint songs she would sing every day that she appeared at our house to take care of us and the house.

Casilda was a part of the house when we arrived and would always be there after we left. The house could not be the house without Casilda, it was some sort of unwritten Portuguese contract you signed on the air when you rented the house. Casilda was the best thing about the house. She didn’t speak a word of English. And nobody but the Portuguese speaks Portuguese. Except of course all of Brazil.

That didn’t matter because when you wanted cake Casilda would bring eggs fresh from her farm and whip up an angel food cake that would have angels standing in line before the shrine of St. Casilda of the Cakes. Beyond that, she was remarkable in her ability to care for the house and the grounds and her helpless “artiste” renters. Beyond even that, she was the most unfailingly kind soul I’ve ever known.  This was true in many small gestures I’d observed — replacing fledglings falling from nests… that sort of thing. But the time when I shared her kindness was when we both saved “Escudo”[Sch-udoo].

Like most mornings I was writing on the roof terrace which gave me sweeping views of the coast and the ocean beyond. Below me, a two hundred yard dirt road ended at a lighthouse that had been keeping ships moving to or from the Straits of Gibraltar from wrecking on the rocky Algarve coast for centuries. My new wife was painting in her small studio downstairs or somewhere up along the line of cliffs that ran from the house to the village. Casilda was baking a cake in the kitchen and puttering about below.

I wrote/rewrote lines from Seed in my notebook secretly wishing it was the afternoon so my wife and I could go to the beach for some grilled fish and cold beer after a swim in the grotto. Then I noticed a tumbling cluster of what looked like some twenty dogs coming up the road to the lighthouse  — rolling and barking and jumping on something small and screaming in the center of the pack — and then dogs were jumping out of and back into the pack all barking madly in the hot dust of the road — and the whole seething shebang was coming right up the dirt road near my house — and I saw what it was and I was down the stairs and out the gate with my walking stick running into a canine gang rape in progress.

Somewhere in the center of these twenty dogs of all shapes and sizes was a small female mongrel in heat. That was what had gotten into the dogs until they were all trying to get a turn; trying to have a go. It was not a pretty sight but it was also an intimidating one. Approaching the pack it dawned on me I was going to face down some twenty feral dogs with a walking stick. It gave me pause. I hesitated.

Not so Casilda. She just came down the road with the purposeful one foot in front of the other blunt stride that she had, snatched my walking stick from my hand without asking, and waded into the center of the dog pack. The stick became a blur clubbing any dog near it with a force that let you hear the ribs crack. The dog gang-bang evaporated in under twenty seconds with all mutts yipping, running, limping, or hobbling towards the exits. Between Casilda’s feet was a small and shivering bitch with bites and claw marks tearing her skin and a beaten exhausted slackness in her eyes and all over her body. Casilda picked her up in her apron and we took her back to the house.

Casilda and I had a kind of pidgin language that we used to communicate; Englisuese or Portulish if you will. I got towels while she soothed the little dog in her lap in the kitchen. Casilda talked to the dog in, of course, Portuguese… And soothed the animal’s anxiety level down to simply shivers. 

We wrapped part of her in a towel and then we took a closer look at this rape victim. What we’d saved was a dog that would have been dead in a day. She only weighed about 10 pounds and was obviously a very young dog that had come into her first heat. Her coat had a number of bites and scratches where the other dogs had tried to hold her. She had a gaunt uncared-for look that said she was one of the numberless ownerless dogs that floated around the Algarve. Her eyes were rheumy and focused on the nearest being to her as if she thought you might at any moment just reach down and kill her. She had no fight left in her. She was a complete mutt with a coat part ochre and part dusky yellow. Under her muzzle and encircling her throat around and behind the ears and down around the throat was a necklace of eighty-six well-fed, blood-gorged ticks.

It was the most repulsive display of parasitism I had ever seen and I dropped the dog back down on the table when I saw this. Not Casilda. She gave me to understand that, repulsed as I might be, I had to hold the mutt in the towel she’d bundled it in. Then she went into the pantry closet where the things of Casilda were kept. She came back with a candle, a flat screwdriver, a bottle of sulfur powder, and a jar full of some sort of vaguely taupe cream. She lit the candle and put the screwdriver beside it. Then she took the dog from me and wrapped her even more snugly in the towel. Then she just sat. Sat still. Sat still petting the animal slowly for about five minutes and then began to sing to it. What did she sing? I never knew since I never knew the Portuguese words she sang. But the dog did and very slowly the animal’s anxiety slackened and, amazingly, she fell asleep in Casilda’s lap. 

Casilda held the screwdriver’s flat tip over the candle flame and then very gently brought it close to where each tick’s head was embedded into the dog’s neck with its bloated with blood belly above. Close to the tick but away from the neck. After a moment the tick stirred and backed itself a bit out of the neck. Casilda’s free hand would dart in and pluck the tick out with the head still on it and drop it into a bucket she’d put on the floor with some kerosene in the bottom. Then her hand would lift up the bottle of sulfur powder and give the wound a quick dusting. The dog, knowing what she was about after the first tick, lay quietly in her lap and submitted to it.

It took Casilda the better part of two hours to get rid of the 86 fat ticks that had formed a collar of parasites around the neck of the dog. (I counted the repulsive bodies in the kerosene bucket.)  Then Casilda heated some water and washed the dog’s wounds and dried them and then put some more sulfur over the wounds, and then applied the strange taupe cream, and then wrapped a bandana around the dog’s wounded neck; a bandana that turned out to be a piece Casilda trimmed out of her neckerchief. She took some towels, made a nest on the bottom of a cupboard, and settled the dog into its folds where, at last, and gazing at Casilda as you would gaze upon a goddess, she fell finally asleep.

But Casilda was not quite done since during the hours it had taken to care for the dog it was still in heat. The scent was attracting the dogs Casilda had scattered with a stick and they had come skulking back to see if they could have another go. About six of them were roaming about the yard of the villa when Casilda came around the corner from the kitchen door.

Six rocks, six thwacks, six howls and six dogs gone down the dirt road never to be seen again.

My wife and I went down to the beach for the evening swim, barbequed chicken with fried potatoes and a green salad washed down with a cold carafe of Vino Verde and finished off with a sharp strong shot of aguardiente. When we got back Casilda was gone along with the little dog.

But the dog was back again the next morning. Back right at the heels of Casilda that day and every day after. It didn’t matter after that where Casilda moved the little dog was never, ever more than five feet away from the woman who had snatched it out of a gang of rapists, pulled 86 ticks from its neck, and stoned its tormentors. The dog was, how shall I say it, spot-welded to Casilda’s heels. From that morning on Casilda’s every move had its small canine shadow. In time the wounds around the neck healed even though the fur never really grew back and gave her a coat with a collar of scars. She didn’t care. She had Casilda and that was all she knew on earth and all she needed to know.

We named her “Escudo” after the basic unit of Portuguese money — think “Penny.” If Casilda was around I could get Escudo to take some petting and romping from time to time, but if Casilda left the room Escudo was right after her on the bounce. 

This went on for nearly three months until the morning Casilda and Escudo showed up with a raffia basket slung over Casilda’s shoulder. With Escudo at her feet, Casilda showed me the basket which contained an even smaller Escudo. It was her single puppy, a girl. 

Every day after Casilda would work and clean at my villa in the Algarve. Every day Escudo would follow her around and then nurse her puppy until the time came when the puppy began to follow Escudo who was following Casilda. Soon it was like watching a puppy train with a Portuguese folk-song soundtrack move about the house.

And so it went until life recalled my first wife and me to move to Aix-en-Provence and we had to say goodbye. It was, frankly, a tear-filled goodbye since all knew we would never see each other again. And so one noon, Casilda turned in the doorway and walked — stolid blunt strong –up the dirt road towards her farm with Escudo behind her and the puppy scampering behind Escudo.

All long, long ago. At least six lifetimes ago. And here I am now remembering what my original motive was for starting to tell of this far faded incident nobody else alive will remember. That was a few days back. That thought had to do with the parasites around the dog’s neck. It was going to be some long pocket essay about how a society can only take so many blood-sucking parasites on its neck before it begins to die unless some strong sort of de-ticking is deployed. Was that it?

Yes, that was it. Some sort of vague morality tale about the blighted culture we currently inhabit. Who needs that? There are a million stories about the naked and the dead cities of America. We know the disease and we dread the cure but we don’t need another homily. God knows I don’t need one. So I think I will just drop it.

Instead, I want to recall an afternoon when a woman who did not speak my language sat with me and taught me about the simple humanity of caring for the broken, the wounded, and the worthless. I hope Casilda and the descendants of Escudo are still living on her family farm in the Algarve. I hope she has the pleasure of her husband safe at home at last. I hope she has held her grandchildren and thinks, not often but sometimes, of the strange Americans who helped her one summer afternoon long ago save Escudo.

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What a family. God bless them all.

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Billy Joel: He’s a nice man, but he’s gotta go.

They tell me, in this shaded room where the machines beep softly and the drip feed makes a soft “plop” every minute or so, that I am mad; mad to declare, as I do, that my only solution is to go back in time and strangle Billy Joel in his cradle. They say that I am mad, but I say infanticide is the one ambition that still attaches me to sanity! Like Carthage, Baby Billie must be destroyed!

It wasn’t always this way with me. In fact it all started yesterday. Started, as many disasters do, by killing me softly with its love.

The parasite embedded itself in my brain during a vulnerable moment in the postprandial stupor that descended upon me after the third and last helping of garlic mashed potatoes. As the tryptophan torpor of spuds eroded my normal defenses I sat, minding my own stomach, by the warm fire in the study. Next door in the kitchen over a hot hand of Pinochle my host said, “Turn up that Billy Joel song I like.”

If I had known what that meant I would have choked myself with the leftover El Diabo chicken wings.

But no, I had no inkling of the horror to come. I was drifting through the hideous paragraphs of a tattered paperback novel by Dale Brown, an author who should have gone down with the Old Dog instead of living to write more books. His lulling sentences, so bad they were good, disarmed my natural defenses and so… and so….

In a few moments, I heard the beginning notes of my doom. With a lilting melody backed by Thor’s piledriver bass line, the following song was hammered into my brain…

It’s all about soul.
It’s all about faith and a deeper devotion.
It’s all about soul.
‘Cause under love is a stronger emotion.

In it went. So smooth and unremarked that I scarcely knew it was there. Instead, I drifted off into a late daydream of dutch apple pie, angels’ wings, dancing hamsters, and waltzing kittens. [continue reading…]

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Good night. Sleep tight. Carry on dreaming in God.

“We are not alone. We are not alone.
We are not alone. God is with us. [continue reading…]

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Grace Braeger: The Woman Who Drove the Same ’57 Chevy for 60 Years Grace purchased her Bel Air in Milwaukee, brand new. She traded in her previous vehicle, a 1950 Chevy, which brought the price down to $2,250. She bought the vehicle from a Chevy franchise that just so happened to be called Braeger. Grace says she loved that the franchise nameplate on the back of the Bel Air meant that it literally had her name on it.

1957 was a particularly good year to purchase a Bel Air for such long term use, since it received several updates that many people these days would consider essential, such as automatic transmission, power steering, and air conditioning.

When asked in an interview why she never sold the vehicle or bought something new she simply said, “I like this car. Everyone likes this car.” Can’t argue with that logic — the 1957 Bel Air is one of the most iconic American vehicles ever made. As one auto historian put it, the ’57 Bel Air is “an icon of its age right alongside Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Leave it to Beaver.” — August 12, 2021

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Noted in Passing: Ignore Alien Orders

From the comments at Twitter:
Does that double as an egg nog bong?
It’s the desperation in the eyes that completes it.
The snow globe only works if she does cartwheels
So this year, instead of ugly sweater parties…
Shouldn’t the deer be replaced with an exploding whale?
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1.
Replying to @brithume I don’t agree with you often but, that thing needs to never be spoken of again. I’m encouraged we found this common ground.
“Insanae et vanae curiae invadunt mentes nostras, semper furore replent corda, privata spe.” Insane and vane cares invade our minds, they often fill our hearts with madness, and deprive it of hope.

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[continue reading…]

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Of Shirts and Strips at American Digest

The latest from Silkshop is that these shirts won’t be ready until November 30. I went by Silkshop this morning to see if I could get them sooner but they are a small shop and are “getting slammed by pre-holiday orders.”  Once I get them I shall ship them as fast as I can put them in envelopes and take them to the Post Office.  

In the meantime, I’ve taken a look at items that turn around more quickly and have gotten five samples***  of this bumperstrip in less than three business days.

I think these strips will also have a broad appeal…. especially at $5.00 each (shipping and postage included). What do you folks think?

*** I’ll send out these samples free to the first five readers to request one via vanderleun@gmail.com. (I’ll tell you all here when the five are gone.)

ALL GONE. SORRY. I’LL ORDER MORE BUT THE FIRST ARE SPOKEN FOR. THANKS.

Okay, ordered 100 more and they are due around Thursday or Friday of this week. Those go out for $5.00 each so let me know if you want one.

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I find Adams an obsessively boring doofus … but here he’s right on the money concerning the Rittenhouse trial, “the fake news,” and the news.

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On the Democrat Party (Bumped Because Comments)

Dave Moore: The Democrat Party is...

and has always been, the party of slavery. It’s just that now, they don’t care what color their slaves are. They want all of us to be the slaves of a few.

Mike Austin: The Democrat Party is…

the party of slavery, Civil War, secession, the KKK, Jim Crow, the Three-fifths Compromise, Dred Scott, The Missouri Compromise, The Kansas-Nebraska Act, church burnings, Welfare, the Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, the first World War, Prohibition, the Vietnam War and its loss, the “boat people”, the defeat in Afghanistan, the Korean War and its outcome, the saving of Lenin and the USSR, the saving of Stalin and the USSR during World War II, allowing the enslavement of Eastern Europe, the Cuban Missile Failure, the salvation of Castro, the betrayal during the Bay of Pigs, the destruction of Law in America, the spread of sexual degeneracy world wide, the creation of race hatred, the destruction of the American republican government and Constitution, abortion, the spread of HIV, Waco, Ruby Ridge, gun control, the strengthening of China, throwing God out of American classrooms and public places, rewarding treason and punishing the law-abiding, Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, Drag Queen Story Hour…

My apologies to Satan if I omitted some of his handiwork.

Comments to Noted in Passing: “Living Proof”

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