Saturday, September 29, 2012

Funereal Fun

The call came. Old Aunt and Uncle, “Sis 'n’ Dick,” so connected by love and family they died within a week of each other. A California trip justified by two beautiful souls who led full and joyous lives.

No matter how poor, you got to scrape together funds for the big family funeral. In my case, heal the guts of the mobile home--the old van--also. Paint peeling and plastic cracking, its heart was still strong. Like the aging hick driving. The cooling system repair, in the rock front yard, untested, added a touch of almost-danger.

The only son able to score bereavement pay rode along, his relative introversion overcome by road trip gusto. We’d spent many nights on the dirt mattresses of our ultimate sleep, backpacking and primitive-camping, so van living would be “uptown.” Camping, to keep it Cheap, near well-kept west coast towns where bits of my aimless youth had been well spent.

In fact my biggest connection to Uncle Dick was showing up at his beachfront place at 18, expecting to be taken in. He was a hard working second generation Californian who had by then raised four good kids and a good fortune, with two sons left at home close to my age. Patient, wise, calm, a gentleman who, out of business skill or genuine love of humanity, spoke with you as if you were the most important person in the world. I thus assumed my welcome; he took me in without a blink, for most of 1977. Of course, open-hearted Sis, my mother’s older sister, was just as much to thank. I realize now their parenting style inspired mine later, for the better.

My mobile home’s “cruise control" quit working and I had to use my foot, old school! It looked uglier than usual in the paved beach playgrounds of pretend bohemians and the semi-rich. After an afternoon playing in the surf, we cleaned up in the cold water showers, put on our best clothes, and went to what would be a short and sober “wake.” Upon our early arrival, we changed back into casual clothes, in the church parking lot, since we’d over-dressed (a rare event indeed).

Happy families full of Grand and Great Grand Children. Overwhelming to see so much family you see too seldom, or have never seen.

The cousins who made it compared lives, traded addresses, wondered sadly where are the missing. Grandchildren of affluence took turns at a microphone, mostly telling of being taught how to work at Grandpa’s house. He had been a child during the First Great Depression, as a teenager hitchhiked to his own Grand Parents farm in Nebraska, to work.

Sis was the same age, raised in deep poverty, daughter of an oft-unprosperous Arizona miner. They met in San Diego after both joined the United States Navy in 1941. He survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, a miraculous tale he never mentioned. If he gave advice, he managed to make the recipient feel it was his or her own idea, and a brilliant one at that.

Their successful lives never altered the humility and gratitude they felt for it. It seems like every member of this couple’s tribe is happy and kind. My son, who calls himself “ignostic” (don’t know, don’t care) said, all dogma being just dogma, if he had to join a church he would join theirs--”...they’re all so darned nice!”

Back in parking-camp, we slept with the sound of surf at our feet, the endless hiss of the Interstate at our heads, and the thundering of an occasional train between; our windows and doors all open and our “stuff” piled in the front seat and on the ground. Our unit looks not worth robbing, and anyone who wants our crappy stuff can have it anyhow.

Next morning an early swim made us a minute late. The modest Patriarch didn't like to be the center of attention, or inconvenience anyone, so he had insisted on a one hour service, starting and ending on time. After, gathering at the beach, goodbyes, condolences, hugs--and a bit more swimming. You don’t really hope to see each other again too soon, since funerals seem to be what it takes.

Son and I camped in the hills just up from the beach that night. The campground was full, all around us music and laughter in several languages. We resumed our place in the brotherhood of everybody, and slept well.

In ancient times, ancestors were often worshiped. Why not? The Wise Elder, Patient but Firm. The Hearth Goddess, feeding and teaching and loving, Disciplined but Kind. What more could one aspire to? How fortunate to have such ancestors! Our time on the planet is too short to quibble over details. Love is all that matters. In their honor I will try harder to be nice to everyone.

One last ocean swim next morning. The waves form and break, the sun breaks out of the fog, life goes on and on. Goodbye ocean. Goodbye Sis ‘n’ Dick. Your good lives are in the heads and hearts of everyone you touched, spilling forward without end.

“Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.”

      --Karen Lynn Davidson, from Mormon hymn #293,
       “Each Life That Touches Ours for Good”

Anyone interested in the lives of these folks can read more. They both researched and wrote books about themselves, their relatives, and their ancestors. You can look 'em up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ten Things

Every time we visited Grandma Jones, she insisted she felt “better than ever.”

All but one “car insurance” outfit which claims to be cheapest is fibbing.

A citizen can use lots of drugs, for a long time, and still function respectably in society.

The only way to split housekeeping fairly: do none.

Don’t Drink from the Spit Cup!

Proper parenting is Hard Work.

Ironing is Diabolical!


Quitters Never Fail.

If God is Not a Thing, It Is Everywhere!

How To Get Through Life: Show Up Every Day and Try.

“Fill your bowl to the brim
 and it will spill.
 Keep sharpening your knife
 and it will blunt.
 Chase after money and security
 and your heart will never unclench.
 Care about people’s approval
 and you will be their prisoner.

 Do your work, then step back.
 The only path to eternity.”

--Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Slack's Back!

We the working peeps always have to adjust to conditions on the ground, as they happen. The “news" doesn’t always match up with real life. Here’s some old “news" from my neighborhood: many good jobs disappeared. Some folks ain’t working 'cause there ain’t work. Others found crap work and live check to check.

But, ya know, even in so-called good times, at good jobs, hardly anyone “gets ahead" in life without sacrificing all slack time and therefore their sanity. Make more, spend more. Work your butt off, or do as little as possible, and end up with nothing. No fault of governments or gods, just Life. So, why bother?

Why bother indeed? The simplest adjustment to broken dreams and mass unemployment is Slack. Voluntary Poverty. Drop Out. Give Up. Who Cares?

This attitude removes all stress at once. Relax and commit to Slack. It’s not always easy; unsteady oft unsafe part-time low-wage toil, no medicine, no more full purse or “eating out.” Working Slackers must learn the delicate work/slack balance and do just enough to keep the job. No worries, the bonus is the extra slacking at home now.

Home Slack means avoiding housework, cooking, laundry, and “yard work.” If you don’t like filth, ease into it slowly, naturally: first day, your clothes don’t smell awful yet, the house ain’t too messy, and your kitchen ‘strike’ is like a new diet. Stick with it! By the time the house is piled with refuse, reeking of armpit, sour pudding, and pets, on your ninth day of peanut butter sandwiches, you will hardly notice.

The payoff is well worth it. Hours of slack time, to dream, read, play, sing, hang out, love, think, pray, dance, and fondle yourself. None of these cost a penny. Slack parenting is better too; “quality time beats quantity time” has always been a guilt-reducing lie for too-busy parents.

Our Cavepeople ancestors worked about 25 hours a week, say anthropologists; that sounds about right. If you can’t afford to quit working, you prob’ly have too many bills and doodads. Dump your car, phone, and everything else you think you need which our ancestors didn’t for 90,000 years. Scam a free room from a relative or friend in return for housework or babysitting. Eat whatever comes along, or not at all; hunger ain’t as bad as folks make it out to be. When you get hurt or sick, you’ll either get well or not. Pain is only pain. Death is part of life. Your funeral costs ain’t your problem once dead, and you’ll never have to work again! Eternal Slack!

If you lose your job, be grateful. The ladder of success is leaning on a crumbling wall anyway. Lower your sights, forget about goals, just relax and be happy with whatever you got left even if it ain’t much. Volunteer somewhere if yr bored at home or hungry. (Service organizations and churches always serve snacks!)

If you haven’t lost your job, quit, or ask for a demotion. We can have everything we want, right now; all we have to do is quit wanting so much. Anyone happy with what they have has entered the only heaven we will ever know.

The Slack Life is a good life once you settle in. No more running around, beating yourself up in endless circles. No more crap worship, no fussing with worthless stuff. More time with the people you love, doing what you want to do, whenever you want, free!

So why wait? Commit to Slack now, and forever live in peace!

A proposal: Nationwide Slack Days. Starting now, every worker take one bogus sick day per month, to do nothing. No dues to pay, no club to join, just call in sick. No official date: if we all pick different days, the Owners may never catch on.


   “Bonnie’s heart sank when she considered the horror of the lives that most men led, trapped for nine ten hours a day in the slave gangs of traffic, the uniformed peonage—suit and tie and digital wristwatch—of the office galleys, the nerve-wracking drudgery of the on-going never-ceasing destruction and reconstruction, backhoes, front-end loaders, jackhammers, wrecking balls, freight trucks, nailguns, concrete culverts, asbestos insulation, I-beams, hardware, software, application forms, medical claim forms, auto insurance forms, income tax forms, garbage, mud, dust, sludge, whole monoclines of paper and anticlines of carbon (press hard) and synclines of silent despair. The world of “jobs.”
 “...And not only the men. Progress proceeds. Now the women too, driven by need or madness or by simple greed, were plunging into the same nightmare world, unsexed by unisex, becoming office-persons, waitpersons, chairpersons, cowpersons, truck driverpersons, coal minerpersons,  machine-gunnerpersons. With their children abandoned all day five days a week in pink and blue Day-Glo Tee-Vee Jailhouse Kiddie Kare storage centers. That is, if the women were lucky enough to be able to afford it. Those mothers, that is, who had their “jobs.” The cruelty of it sickened her.”

     --Edward Abbey, from Hayduke Lives!




The fight for the right to party is real, people! And critical:
If you can’t party, what good is freedom of speech n stuff?


Huila swallowed. It made her feel terribly sad. “Will I like being dead?” she asked.
Teresita opened her eyes.

“Did you enjoy being alive?”

Huila thought about it.

“Yes,” she said.

“Then,” Teresita said, “you will enjoy your death.”

   --from The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea, p.337

Friday, September 7, 2012

Five Nihilist Diatribes

It used to be “vacation pay.” Since no one can afford vacations, “personal time off” is what we get now. Oh well. Nice to be away from the roaring dust-cloud I call work. My gasoline boycott is equal parts protest and poverty.

Volumes of printed symbols, full of amazing facts and amusement, are free at the (socialist!) library. Used crap stores near universities have dust-cheap papyri with big words in ‘em and stuff.

“Literary” is a code word for fancy writing: eight words when two will do. Most poetry is like a crossword jig-saw puzzle; my brain is puzzled enough. I read “non-fiction,” trying to discover what is not fiction in this world of lies.

It Takes A Pillage : An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit, and Untold Trillions, by Nomi Prins. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. 2011

This country is screwed beyond its wildest nightmares. The Glass-Steagall Act passed in 1933, to keep banks from the paper-shuffling theft that caused the First Great Depression. After its repeal in 1999, the banks quickly brought us the Second G. D. This time, instead of punished, they were rewarded with immoral fortunes thanks to eternal debt. And they are still in charge, the same thing will keep happening!

In My Jack-ass Opinion: Blame Clinton, Bush, or Obama, but all money trails eventually lead to banks. They own the show. Their media blame our nation’s financial problems on the poor, who have no way to answer back. Move your money to a Credit Union, and don’t quit your job, no matter how crappy.


Murder City : Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, by Charles Bowden. New York: Nation Books. 2010

Bowden’s got cojones. He shadows murder scenes in Juarez barrios. Hangs with a street preacher who runs a homeless/crazy shelter. Sneaks to interview a former hit man who found Jesus. He tallies the grisly daily rape/torture/murder. The U. S. gives the Mexican military $1.5 billion a
 year…”where the war is for drugs, for the enormous money to be made in drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between government and the drug world has never existed.” (p. 18) So we are paying to help bring drugs in, and paying to keep them out.

IMJO: The same as in USA Today 3/19/2009: 

Governments must secure and regulate the drug trade, because the alternative is organized violent crime. Sign up all the addicts, sell ‘em drugs cheap, and use profits to make drug rehab free for anyone who wants it.


The Family, by Jeff Sharlet. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Politics brings odd folks together. These modern “Christians” permeate our government, sometimes helping murderous dictators, or CEOs who love the lack of health and safety laws in the third world and Jesus. They have manufactured a New Lord—no more sissified do-gooder touchy-feely meekness! No conscience, no personal responsibility, just submission to Super Jesus in the form of political power.

IMJO: Holy Constantine! What Jesus? The one who refused dominion over the world (Matt 4:8-10)? Who said to love your neighbor (Matt 22:39)? These righteous killers justify themselves with Romans 13:1 “…the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Which is incorrect; they are ordained by banks.) “Right-wingers” and “left-wingers” prayin’ together, then handing out welfare to bank thieves and war cartels. This new bad-ass Jesus looks a lot like Satan.
This ain't the next book's cover. It's some pennies.
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

Unflinching statistical analysis: “…morality represents how people would like the world to work…economics shows how it actually does work.” People are likely to cheat under certain predictable circumstances, at predictable levels, depending on incentives. Realtors and funeral home directors take advantage of you. And a kid in a house with a gun and a pool is 100 times more likely to die from the pool.

IMJO: Wow, chapter four, “Where Have All the Criminals Gone?”: Logical proof that legal abortion was the main cause of crime declines 20 years later. Then the formula in reverse: In 1966, Nicolae Ceausescu, the Communist dictator of Romania, made abortion illegal, to boost population. Which doubled, but life in Romania was terrible for everyone but the rich. 23 years later he was executed on Christmas Day by firing squad after a youth-led revolt.

The Idler Book of Crap Jobs : 100 tales of workplace hell, edited by Dan Kiernan. New York: HarperCollins (again?), 2005.

Tales of lousy British jobs, or good jobs made bad by managerial indifference, incompetence, and/or dishonesty, by 100 modern slaves. Icons indicate whether each job was humiliating, disgusting, soul-destroying, futile, immoral, dangerous, or, like #1 “Phone sex line operator,”all six. “Maggot Farmer” (#84) starts in a huge pit full of maggot infested carcasses, wearing waders, turning over the rotting chunks. Your first promotion is to a net-covered airplane-hangar-size building, full of large ‘stud’ flies. All for minimum wage.

IMJO: In Britain, “Fordism” and “Fordist” are used as insults, meaning mass-produced crap and dehumanized work conditions.
In a Harvard study:
163 of 168 countries guaranteed paid maternity leave for mothers. Not the U.S.
 People whine about the breakdown of the family, this is why. Both parents have to work crap jobs to survive, unable to care for themselves or their children properly, living check to check. 

Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico, by Bill Weinberg. New York: Verso, 2000.

The theft of Native American lands and resources is ongoing, the victims won’t go away and shut up, nor can I it seems. The narcotraficantes and corporations bring
 violence, theft, and “progress”, encouraged and assisted by banks and governments and their militaries. All but the most remote pockets of resistance appear doomed. They keep fighting because they have so little left to lose.

IMJO: From the other end of the gun barrel, it looks like the intent is to kill, maim, exploit, and poison them all, and let God sort it out. No happy ending to this story till we get hungry enough to join our Zapatista homies. They’ve got 500 years practice fighting the evil bastards.

For now, we just keep dancing, to keep our spirits up, I guess. Dancing is free.

Also my next reading adventure should involve sunshine and lollipops. If not moonshine and crack.

Sunset, Arrowhead Village Mobile Home Park

“We–the ‘we’ of the relatively affluent and powerful–live in a time and a spatial order in which the ‘normalcy’ of our lives requires our active complicity in forms of exploitation and violence that we would decry and disavow were the physical, social, and linguistic distances that separate us from them ever to be collapsed. This is true of the brutal and entirely unnecessary confinement and killing of billions of animals each year for food, of the exploitation and suffering of workers in Shenzhen, China who produce our iPads and cell phones, of the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ deployed in the name of our security, and of the ‘collateral damage’ created by the unmanned-aerial-vehicles that our taxes fund. Our complicity lies not in a direct infliction of violence but rather in our tacit agreement to look away and not to ask some very, very simple questions: Where does this meat come from and how did it get here? Who assembled the latest gadget that just arrived in the mail? What does it mean to create categories of torturable human beings? The mechanisms of distancing and concealment inherent in our divisions of space and labor and in our unthinking use of euphemistic language make it seductively easy to avoid pursuing the complex answers to these simple questions with any sort of determination.”
Timothy Pachirat